Freedom Within Structure: A Slogan for a Pandemic

Carol Lennox by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

I’m a martial artist. I’m also a rebel. One of my fellow practitioners told me once, “Carol, it’s possible to have freedom with structure. In fact, that’s what martial arts is all about.” It took awhile to wrap my brain around the concept, while wrapping my body around other martial artists, but once I did, a whole new world opened up for me. Freedom is only truly possible within a structure. In martial arts, the structure is the dojo protocol and the techniques.

How does this apply to a pandemic?

Protestors without masks, and sometimes carrying guns, have become the new face of the pandemic in the U.S. They aren’t the majority, nor are they particularly medically or constitutionally informed. They do present and represent an ugly American face. One not covered in a protective mask.

Whose freedom is actually violated when you don’t wear a mask in public? Mine, and everyone around you. Your freedom shouldn’t have to mean my illness or death. In other words, your right to throw a punch ends at the beginning of my nose.

How do we, as Americans, and as world citizens, practice our own freedom while not infringing on the rights of others? It’s something Americans, at least, should know a lot about. In a democracy, we practice it daily all of our lives.

All of our freedoms are restricted in the sense that we are free insofar as we are not harming others.

When it was acknowledged that second hand smoke causes cancer, smoking indoors and on planes was banned. Your right to smoke outside and in your own home wasn’t infringed. For smokers, there is freedom within structure.

My freedom to drive involves driving by rules and laws so I don’t endanger you on the road. Your freedom to drive involves abiding by the rule of the road. For drivers, there is reedom within structure.

My right to be naked doesn’t preclude your right not to see me nude. Your right to be naked in your own hom or as a naturist doesn't mean you can flash people in the street. Freedom within structure.

Your freedom to drink alcohol doesn’t mean you are free to vomit on my shoes. Our right to drink alcohol doesn’t mean that we can drink and drive. Well, we can, but at the risk of our own tragedy and that of others. Freedom exacts a price.

Why should a pandemic be any different? It shouldn’t.

I really don’t care if you don’t want to wear a mask, as long as you don’t come near me. And I mean a lot further away than six feet. You have every right to risk your own life, but you have no right to risk mine.

There’s a lot more to a Democracy than freedom within structure, but it is part of a strong foundation. All countries and cultures should be about ensuring the health and livelihood of each of their citizens, otherwise, why live in groups or societies at all? We might as well be hermits.

Pandemics aren’t political. The virus isn’t interested in whether we lean left or right. It doesn’t play favorites. It isn’t Democrat or Republican, Libertarian, or Leftist.

The virus is practicing its own form of freedom. Freedom to be carried in the air between people. Freedom to replicate inside any human body it’s able to invade. The freedom to mutate, and become weaker or stronger, or another form of itself entirely. The virus even has its own rudimentary structure as it moves freely through the world and people’s bodies.

If the virus practices freedom within structure, we should be wise enough to do the same.

Americans like to believe that Democracy is the highest and best form of government in the world.

That’s true primarily because we collectively support the concept that individual freedoms shouldn’t violate the boundaries of everyone else’s freedom. At least not among rational people. It's the very basis of democracy, and most of all, the Rule of Law that governs the United States and other democracies in the world. It's even a part of Vulcan culture in Star Trek. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

I’m aware that not everyone involved in this battle over masking and social distancing can be considered rational. And the ones who don't mask consider those who do irrational. But where's the harm is doing this easiest thing possible to protect both ourselves and others? Making the choice to protect fellow citizens in coutries where we actually have freedom seems a small price to pay for that very freedom. When you do protect yourselves and others aqainst a deadly disease, you are the embodiment of freedom within structure.

Citizens of democracies have a right to choose to wear a mask or not. However, for those who don't choose to, their right to spread a frightening and highly contagious disease ends at my right not to contract it. That means some structure must be in place to protect both of our freedoms. Right now, my structure involves a mask.

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My purpose is to inspire and inform. You can read more by me on, and on the Good Men Project. I've had a lifetime of valuable experiences, and I want to share the lessons I've learned readily, or been forced to learn. I'm a psychotherapist, a hypnotherapist, a mother to my amazing son, Blake Scott, whom I write about often. I also write about race, equality, social justice, sex, government, and Mindfulness, not in that order.

Austin, TX

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