Liberty, vaccines and death

Opposition to COVID-19 safety measures reveals a twisted definition of 'freedom'

Liberty, vaccines and death

In American history, no idea has mattered more than the idea of freedom.

Yet, we have two very different ideas of freedom in this country. The traditional definition of freedom is progressive. Freedom means expanding citizen participation, expanding voting rights for everyone and expanding education and economic opportunity.

But there is a conservative version of "freedom" that is, in many ways, the opposite of these things. To many conservatives, protecting "freedom" means curtailing things like voter participation, civil rights and a woman's right to choose. These conservatives want to go back to a time before activist movements expanded our central American freedoms to more people.

For example, the right to vote is an essential freedom. Yet conservatives are engaged in a nationwide voter suppression campaign because they fear that voter turnout —especially Black and Latino turnout — will result in fewer conservatives elected to office.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also heightened tensions between our dueling definitions of freedom. The pandemic has proven that conservatives and progressives tend to have very different views of freedom and what it means.

Conservatives like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have framed the rejection of vaccine requirements, masks and public safety shutdowns as violations of "personal freedom." Thousands of Republicans, following their leaders, have refused to get vaccinated or follow basic science. As a result, many have died of COVID, losing their ultimate freedom — their freedom to live.

Yet, no matter how many stories we hear about conservatives dying after scoffing at vaccines or masks, many continue to resist common sense and basic science. Republican Allen West, running for governor of Texas, recently continued to rail against vaccination from the hospital bed where he was fighting COVID.

The rejection of life-saving vaccines and masks has become part of the extreme conservative definition of freedom. What does this tell us about conservatives' definition of freedom, and how does this twisted definition affect other parts of our political discourse? In the next episode of the FrameLab podcast, we'll examine liberty, death and the conservative idea of freedom.

If you have any questions on the topic, please let us know and we'll try to answer them (and let us know if we can use your name).

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George and Gil

On Twitter: @georgelakoff @gilduran76

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