“My freedom to extend my arm goes as far as your face.” - Fran Leibowitz
Such a pleasure to hear the pilot on the plane clearly state that not wearing masks during the flight was a violation of Federal Law and would result in being escorted off the plane. (In mid-flight, I wondered?) Having just discussed with a friend whether the essential element in restoring a civil society and ensuring justice was the law or personal ethics, this was a point in favor of the law. An intelligent and just government will ensure that while you’re entitled to believe any crazy conspiracy theory you want, there are limits on how you can act on it (the face of your neighbor while extending your crazed conspiracy arm). If you refuse, you will suffer the consequences. The insanity of the T. Error was precisely the loss of such consequence, the wild dogs of rabid hatred and ignorance unloosed without a dogcatcher in sight.
I wish we could extend the law’s arm beyond flights, require proof of vaccination to enter stores or concerts or restaurants. After all, the Delta variant and resurgence of Covid has everything to do with anti-vaxers refusing the collective move to herd immunity and adversely affecting everyone else. It is a perfect example of how law is indeed necessary to ensure both our civil and physical health.
And yet law alone is never enough. Without a clear inside understanding of why any law is in place, a moral sense of why a particular action is just, decent and simply the right thing to do, nothing will change in a significant way. Witness the enduring legacy of white supremacy. We had the laws that gave voting rights to blacks, abolished Jim Crow, required school integration and more, but the people never convinced from the inside to move their moral compass towards justice simply found ways to work around the laws or ignore them or repeal them.
And so we need both. The education and culture that leads people to their better selves and the law that protects us from those who refuse to do so. During the pilot’s announcement, he also encouraged us all to be kind and respectful and it was a good sign that the culture of air travel is both clear about the law and encouraging us to be nicer than the norm.
My hopes that all our cultural institutions keep moving in both directions.