face mask

Opinion: The problem with don’t tell me what to do

Doesn’t a state need a governor, like a ship needs a captain?

  • By John Pappenheim
  • Friday, November 27, 2020 7:30am
  • Opinion

It recently came to my attention that Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said “like you” he is tired of the pandemic and it’s politicization and doesn’t “like to be told what to do.” Apparently in the context of declining to issue a mask mandate.

One has to admit that there is a certain irony in this statement. He campaigned vigorously to be the governor, the one responsible for conducting the policy, actions and affairs of the state. Hard to do this without telling people what to do. But now Governor Dunleavy professes that he doesn’t like being told what to do. Further, he imagines that his fellow Alaskans don’t like to be told what to do either.

Certainly some signs around the state which read “No Firearms,” “No Shooting,” or “No Hunting” that have been riddled with bullet holes bear testament to the oppositionality of some of us. Yet, doesn’t a state need a governor, like a ship needs a captain?

This leads me to wonder: How wide and deep does this resentment of rules and laws extend? To stop signs? Traffic lights? What about building code for electrical wiring and plumbing? Dumping raw sewage? Following the recipe for nanna’s red velvet cake?

Seriously, did we not pass these laws ourselves for good reason? We are, after all, a democracy. It’s not as though the Canadians got together and made up all these laws that we must follow. Speaking of the Canadians, how are they doing these days? Did you know that in Nova Scotia life is pretty much back to normal with everyone wearing masks and social distancing?

Maybe what Governor Dunleavy was getting at, obliquely, is that we have too many laws and regulations. He certainly has my agreement to that. Especially too many that abridge our freedoms and not enough to protect them.

Which gets to the issue of wearing a mask. There is a certain petulant oppositionality in the statement: “Don’t tell me what to do.”

Typically, this is the reply of an adolescent to a parent. Often when a parent has seen something go awry and made a suggestion or given a directive. So, how are we doing these days? Is there some helpful advice we could follow? Since when did such a simple and easy expression of our care and concern for others, and ourselves, become a symbol of tyranny? The spread of this coronavirus, SARS-COV2, comes down to physics and chemistry, which can be described mathematically and through epidemiological models. This is the same physics, chemistry and mathematics that control how airplanes fly, cellphones operate, car engines power and parachutes work. Are parachutes symbols of tyranny?

Whenever something is asked of us, a common set of questions arises, often subconsciously or unconsciously. How onerous is the request? What will we be required to give up? What will happen if we refuse? What will be the benefit? Who will benefit?

By wearing a proper mask over your nose and mouth when indoors in public you can help to prevent the spread of a virus that is crippling our hospitals, our economy, and exhausting our health care providers. What are your values? Mine tell me to wear my mask when around the public indoors. It is, I think, the epitome of patriotism in these times.

• Dr. John Pappenheim is a physician who has lived and worked in Juneau for the last 10 years. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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