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
  • Wednesday, December 2, 2020 5:06pm
  • Opinion

It recently came to my attention that Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said “like you” he is tired of the pandemic and its 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 Gov. 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 that read “No Firearms,” “No Shooting,” or “No Hunting” and 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 Gov. 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.

More in Opinion

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade

The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Physicians oppose Alaska Senate Bill 115 — Independent Practice for PAs

Alaskans don’t want access to just any health care, they want access to high quality care