Many people ask the very fair question: “How do mask mandates undermine your freedoms?” This is a reasonable question and deserves a thoughtful response.

Mandates are not neutral. Mandates involve force imposed by a powerful government upon ordinary citizens. Mandates originate from non-legislative branches of government, or from agencies outside of elected government altogether.

In a republic such as ours, the roles of the branches and the layers of government are clearly delineated. The division of government between federal, state and local are further divided by the branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial). The bureaucracy is a modern, unelected “branch” of government that has continued to gain more and more power with every passing emergency declaration.

The divisions in our government were brilliantly established to prevent centralized power. The Founders knew, and so do we, that centralized power makes government big and citizens small.

So, the answer to the question: “How do the mandates undermine freedom?” is found in the reality that the mandates impose a new type of governmental involvement in the lives of citizens. The question ends up being less about mandates and more about the role of government. What is the role to be? Is the government to be involved in determining who wears what and who goes where and who is essential and who isn’t?

Is the role of government to control the behavior of the people through mandates and force?

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We are a beautifully naïve people. We are not a people experienced in the forms and shadows of tyranny. We tend to think of tyranny as brutal, unaware that tyranny can be ushered in — as history reveals — in a benign manner. In other words, the oppression begins for our own good and we are promised safety.

The words sound sweet and compassionate. But as time marches on, the institutions become more and more powerful and the people — especially those who are dehumanized because they dissent — become smaller and smaller.

Freedom is fragile. Those of us who oppose the mandates do so because we understand this. We know that the role of government is being transformed before our eyes. Local government is fading and the legislative branch — at least in New York — is becoming irrelevant as the result of growing executive and bureaucratic power.

Freedom will not endure if these trends continue. And that is why we dissent. That is why we oppose the mandates. It is because we love freedom and humanity — for humanity flourishes when people are free.

(Brenda Hanson lives in Delevan.)

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