Consequences for COVID anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers – a Facebook response

Cropped version of an image from the Staten Island Advance, by Jason Paderon

What do I call call discrimination against anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers? Consequences.

A guy I’ve repeatedly argued with on Facebook asked the following in response to my telling him he was misusing the word “fascism.”

OK, So how would YOU describe the systemic discrimination that the unvaxxed and the antimaskers have faced during Polis’ term? A lot of it directly from Polis himself? Authoritarianism?

We’ve faced assault, segregation, discrimination, and tens of thousands of us are losing our jobs every day because of our beliefs. Real evidence too, not just made up.

Below is my response. It was way to involved to post in Facebook, so I wrote it here and have linked to it in my Facebook response to him.

OK, let’s start with a couple of definitions here, because the words you’re using matter. Let’s start with “systemic.” From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “systemic” means “fundamental to a predominant social, economic, or political practice.” Systemic discrimination would then mean discrimination against antivaxxers and antimaskers is fundamental to social, economic, or political practice.

Until the start of the pandemic, there wasn’t any discrimination based on being anti-vaccine at all. Here in Colorado we’ve been tolerating anti-vaccine parents who are simply afraid that their kids might “catch autism” from being vaccinated, even though the vaccine-autism link has been thoroughly disproved and the guy who published it was thrown out of medicine for falsifying data. We have been so tolerant of anti-vaxxers in Colorado that we regularly had pertussis (aka whooping cough) outbreaks in schools and day cares because that group had fallen below the level needed to maintain herd immunity. And because masking hasn’t really been a thing in US culture prior to COVID, there clearly wouldn’t have been any discrimination based on being anti-mask prior to COVID either.

,Something doesn’t become fundamental to a social practice overnight, or even over the course of an 18 month (so far) pandemic. So your suggestion that anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are suffering “systemic discrimination” is obvious bullshit.

Now, I agree that people like yourself are being faced with discrimination, and I’m sure that’s uncomfortable. But even though you are facing discrimination, that doesn’t mean the discrimination you’re facing is illegal, immoral, and/or unethical. Religious employers legally discriminate all the time in hiring practices and many people consider it ethical because of the First Amendment. Refusing service per “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policies is a form of legal discrimination as well and it’s also considered ethical because of the right of association. Sports teams refusing to hire women to play is legal discrimination too. Denying birth control coverage in insurance policies is discrimination against women and it’s currently legal (although this one I personally consider immoral). And so on.

[As an aside, now that you’re facing discrimination for probably the first time and discovering it sucks to be on the receiving end, you have an opportunity. You have the opportunity to empathize just a tiny bit with people who face discrimination every single day. People like African-Americans, Asian-Americans (especially these days), Latinx, Indigenous people, queers, women, et al.  And in their case the discrimination is systemic.  Or you can continue to whine about the discrimination you’re facing instead. Your choice.]

The difference is that the discrimination that you and your fellow anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are facing is a direct result of your choices. You have chosen to not get vaccinated and not to wear a mask. You have been told what the consequences of those choices would be, and instead of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask, you have chosen to accept those consequences. So at the most basic level, while you are certainly being discriminated against, it’s happening as a direct result of your own decisions. And it seems somewhat disingenuous to cry foul in this situation.

Now, let’s look at the definition of “authoritarianism:”

of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people

For the discrimination you’re facing to be an example of authoritarianism, it would have to be a result of actions by people who are “not constitutionally responsible to the people.” The problem is that most of the discrimination you’re facing is from “the people,” not from a leader or elite. Businesses have the right to discriminate. “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service” rules are Constitutional, even if you don’t like them. The same is true of vaccine mandates by employers. And public health officials have been given the authority to issue mask mandates and other public health orders by state laws (in Colorado it’s Title 25 of the Colorado Revised Statues) that were written and approved per the state Constitution. That makes them “constitutionally responsible to the people” by definition. And as a result, public health orders and the discrimination you’re facing is not an example of authoritarianism, and certainly not of fascism (where this all started).

Of course, you’re welcome to challenge the constitutionality of such orders through the courts or to advocate for changes in the law via legislation or a citizen’s initiative. But until such time as you successfully implement changes, public health orders issued by public health officials granted authority by state law are Constitutional and legal.

You say that you and people like you who refuse to vaccinate and/or mask are facing “assault, segregation, discrimination” and job loss as a result of your beliefs. Assault isn’t OK (FYI, there are a lot more assaults on people trying to enforce mask/vaccine rules than there are on people refusing to abide by them), but as I’ve probably made clear by now, the segregation and discrimination are a result of your choices. Choices you freely made, and in full knowledge of the possible outcomes.

What you are facing here are consequences. In many cases, you and your associates are facing the consequences of your actions for the first time in your privileged lives, and you don’t like it at all. I get it – no-one likes having to live with the consequences of poor decisions. But the piper always has to be paid eventually.

Unlike people facing actual systemic discrimination, you and your fellow antivaxxers/antimaskers can choose to end the discrimination against you. All you have to do is wear a mask and you’ll be allowed into the places you were denied access to previously. All you have to do is get vaccinated and that discrimination will vanish literally overnight. Others are not so lucky.

Of course, you are welcome to continue to hew to your anti-vaccine and anti-mask beliefs if you choose. You have the freedom to make that choice and no-one can take that from you. But you do not have the freedom to ignore the consequences of that choice.

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