The Mask Mandates Debate Will Change America Forever

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One of the things that divides people across the country is the mandate debate. Should the government impose masks, stops, vaccines? The list goes on.

Wherever you find yourself in the specter of this debate, there is one thing we all need to understand. It is a historic moment in America’s timeline and will impact the future of this country forever.

You see, at no time in history have we had a global pandemic of this magnitude. Moreover, we have never seen the government intrude into the privacy and businesses of ordinary people in America with such ease and force.

We need to understand how impactful it has been to shut down the country and the whole world completely in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once in a lifetime event, even though it is the start of a new eternity. The truth is, the new coronavirus will probably never go away. Scientists expect it to become another virus just like Ebola, influenza, mad cow disease, West Nile virus and many others.

We will have more viruses in the future that will wreak havoc, maybe even more disruption than COVID-19. It seems certain, the more science plays with nature under the guise of research. How many people believe that someone randomly “ate a bat” and suddenly COVID-19 appeared?

However, we are also at a turning point in America in terms of the position of government and what its authority entails. Should the government have the power to tell businesses to shut down? Should the government have the power to require vaccines? Should the government have the power to require masks?

This conversation isn’t just about the pandemic. This is what the future of the US government will look like. Simply put: what should the government have the power to do or not do?

Many may say that this is only a temporary situation due to the COVID-19 emergency. But the reason we have large-scale federal, state, and local governments today is because of decisions often made in times of emergency. Look back at the Civil War, the Great Depression, September 11, the Great Recession.

The Twin Towers broke down in 2001 and 20 years later we still take our shoes off at the airport because the government says so. It’s for our safety after all, right?

What is even more worrying is the willingness of large sections of our population to cede their authority to those who hold power and knowledge. This observation is not just about a pandemic, but how quickly our society has shown itself to align without question or investigation in the face of danger.

Please know that this is not a discussion of the veracity of the pandemic or an affront to the necessary health precautions we all need to take as COVID-19 continues to plague.

It is a political discourse of the social fabric in which we exist today. We observe before our eyes an evolution of the American social construction.

The mandate debate we see today is bigger than COVID-19. The mandate debate centers on the future of the US government and its authority.

Priscylla Bento is the Policy Officer in the City of Dallas Office of Equity and Inclusion. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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