I note with some alarm the rapid rise in COVID-19 infections across the country. Certainly, infections were expected to re-assert themselves as countries re-opened their economies after the recent world-wide lockdown, but the rate of growth of new cases in the U. S. is almost unequalled in any other part of the world.
It has been suggested (and rightly, I think) that fueling the rise in infection is the belief among some on the political Right that “rejects face masks as muzzles on independence and vilifies public health officials as enemies of the people.”
It occurred to me, however, that, just as there is a curious double standard on the Left which sees a monstrous evil in racism, but is blind to the evil of abortion, just so, there is a double standard among the Right that demands that beliefs about sexual identity conform to biological science and reason, but fails to require that their own conduct regarding public health conform to the same standards.
The Left, no doubt, “rejects biological sex assignments as muzzles on independence and vilifies public health officials as enemies of the people.” They want the right to decide their own sexual identity based on their subjective assessments, to hell with the consequences to society. They vilify anyone who dares suggest that there is a Natural Law that must be obeyed that allows for only two sexes with clearly defined biological roles.
The Right, properly, disagrees with this blatant usurpation of common sense, this assertion of private judgment against an impersonal truth.
It is all the more paradoxical, then, when these same people, so supposedly committed to evidence-based reasoning, assert their right to decide their personal responsibility in containing the spread of a new virus based on their subjective assessments, to hell with the consequences to society. They vilify those who suggest that there is a natural progression of infection based on well-known biological principles. Their refusal to wear a mask in the face of the exponential growth of a deadly virus stems from the same well-spring as those who want to define their own sex – the Principle of Private Judgment.
Before you tell me that some on the Right disagree with the data being put out about COBID-19 – they can read graphs and come to their own conclusions, you will say – one need only remark that this is the exact same argument that those in the LGBQT community put forth with regards to biological studies of sexual differences.
By and large, it is laymen (even those with Ph.d in other areas – I’m looking at you, humanities professors) on both issues who are muddying the waters and creating dissension. If they would have stayed out of the fray and let scientists follow the evidence, as slowly and painfully, two steps forward, one step backwards, as it may be, the truth would have come out and society would have been the better for it because it is the vocation of science, if not individual scientists (who suffer from their own character defects), to study, understand, and use the Laws of Nature for the enlightenment and betterment of society.
This is not an appeal to elitism. This is an appeal to experience. This is asking people without experience to stop trying to re-wire their house, least they get electrocuted. Epidemiologists spend years acquiring their expertise and while they may be wrong on occasion, what are the odds that, in a game of epidemiological Russian Roulette, they are more likely to be killed than you?
There is enough blame on both sides of the political spectrum to go around. The Right deplores those on the Left who want to destroy statues and re-write American history, while they, themselves, by refusing to wear masks, are potentially destroying the living American history of the old people, who are dying at up to 15 times the rate of young people, once they get infected with COVID-19.
Both sides, the Right and the Left, are simply putting different clothes on the same mannequin. The exercise of Free Will is part of the Natural Law, but the Principle of Private Judgment, which, on the face of it, might seem to be the same thing, is not, and it is this confusion which is at the heart of the issue. Everyone wills what they consider to be a Good, even if their identification might be mistaken:
Accordingly then, the will lacking the direction of the rule of reason and of the Divine law, and intent on some mutable good, causes the act of sin directly, and the inordinateness of the act, indirectly, and beside the intention: for the lack of order in the act results from the lack of direction in the will.
The will can be directed by two sources: and external, independent truth or an internal, private judgment. Man is a part of Nature; man does not define nature. Man is immersed in an external, independent moral law; man does not define the moral law. Either a man recognizes these facts and conforms his life to reason and the Divine Law, or he lives in a world of his own making, oblivious to the consequences of his sin. One wills what one considers a good, but no one except God owns the good. The Principle of Private Judgment is a palace revolt against God so that one can sit on the throne and define their own good.
Certainly, the liberal idea of sexual license to define something called gender or to engaged in unrestricted sex is repugnant to the Sixth Commandment (Catholic numbering), but people who refuse to wear masks are engaging in an activity that is equally repugnant to the Fifth Commandment – “Thou shalt not kill.” Both sides will claim that their interpretations of the Commandments are more “enlightened” than their poor demented Others on the other side of the issue, but, in the end, it is the same tyrannical judgment that makes them believe they are right.
To the extent that it exists in the world and especially the U. S., today, private judgment has infected both sides of the political aisle, leading to extreme polarization on both sides and an unwillingness to disenthrall oneself from one’s own opinions.
“Humilty, humilty, I say it again, humility,” said St. Teresa of Avila. In her, Interior Castle, she, likewise says: “How often people stray through not taking advice, especially when there is a risk of doing someone harm!”
Disagreeing with experts who tell you to wear a mask is possible, but you had better have some extraordinarily good reason or special insight for doing so. “It was my own opinion,” is not enough. Go, become an expert. Pay your dues. Then, your opinion will have some value. Even though it may, still, be wrong, it will at least be an opinion based on experience.
It is the same with regards to sexual orientation. Opinion is not truth. When facts become personal interpretations, they cease to become facts. Humility is truth, according to St. Teresa, and no one except God defines truth. It is our purpose as finite human beings to search for truth, to discover truth, not to define truth.
Those who say that those who ignore the facts of sexual identity are delusional have no right to ignore their own fantasies when it comes to disease transmission. Don’t tell me biologists don’t know what they are talking about. They know more about what they are talking about than you. Do you want to be judged by the same standard? Indeed, they may lose their reputation if they are wrong, but you could cause someone to die.
In the end, both sides of the political spectrum in the U. S. have their own defects in judgment stemming from a type of misunderstanding of individualism that is antithetical to humility and a detached searching for the truth. Until both sides clean up their acts a pox will continue to afflict both of their houses. However much they protest, both sides, in different ways, are contributing to the fall of American society, argue as they might that they love that very society. Some parents who beat their children, one might suppose, love their children, but they cannot get beyond themselves long enough to see that their approach to child-rearing is wrong.
In those societies where there is true humilty, COVID-19 has been less severe. People have acted in concert, following their government (which, itself, is consistent and rational) and looking out for each other. If only some Americans understood that wearing a mask is as patriotic as storming a beach -you do it so that others might live and be free – there might be less disease of the heart in this country as well as disease of the body.