Historically the public response to community health danger was ruled by the need to care about others. This tradition has served the country well over the last 300 years. But it is no longer standard in America. The freedom to not wear a face mask has become more important to many people than any obligation to others. Choosing narrow personal liberties over community cooperation and protection does not bode well for our ability to withstand future crises.Judith Walzer Leavitt is professor emerita in the history of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.