My Thoughts on Ordinances, Mandates, and Lethal Force

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My Thoughts on Ordinances, Mandates, and Lethal Force

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One of the cyclic discussions this year has been government mandates related to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Mask mandates and business closures are the two most prominently discussed on my household and circles, usually with respect to their wisdom, efficacy, and consequence.

Municipal/county ordinances and state statutes originate within the respective legislative bodies of that particular government. Few legislative bodies have passed COVID-related mandates, and almost all such efforts have been at the sole discretion and direction of the executives branches of government. That specific division of labor is meant as a check-and-balance in our republic to keep one branch from both writing and enforcing laws, but our collective COVID response has almost universally done that very thing. For most Americans, their mayor, county managers, or governor have enacted Emergency Orders to address the public health crisis without sanction by the corresponding legislature AND that same office gets to enforce their own rule without public debate about the underlying mandate or its punishment. This effectively makes our respective executive authorities our parents. They make the rules without input, and they enforce the rules as they see fit. How just and sustainable is this model?

Emergency orders are special authority granted to executives to respond to urgent crises during times when the legislatures are out of session, or when time constraints prevent pending a response for passage of a bill. However, we’re now nearly a year into this my knowledge, no legislative body has composed and passed legislation to replace, supplant, or invalidate any COVID executive orders. Why are elected officials seemingly unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities and oaths of office? Has anyone asked them?

How just are behavior mandates, especially across large terrains and diverse areas? How reasonable are Draconian restrictions for a rural community with very few cases due to the infection rates and suffering in a dense municipal area many miles away? Is it reasonable to close businesses in one area for something happening in another? Is it reasonable to fine, arrest, or incarcerate residents for behaviors deemed dangerous somewhere else?

Conversely, why does a face covering have to be politicized?

In terms of enforced behaviors, I would ask executives and legislators alike to remember that every mandate or prohibition carries the risk of lethal force and death in its enforcement. Every mandated enforcement interaction between state actors (police, deputies, code enforcement, etc) carries the potential for escalating resistance that can quickly translate into a loss of life for the alleged offender and/or the state actor. If we enforce behavior mandates, we must ensure that those mandates are worthy risks to actual human lives.

Many of those presently shouting in the public square, actual and virtual alike, fail to address the multifaceted and complex realities of any government decision related to this pandemic. Almost everyone picks the data that support one narrow aspect of their position and works to shout down and bully every dissenting opinion. If your family’s business teeters on the verge of bankruptcy in small rural community with no actual COVID crisis, your priorities, fears, and needs diverge greatly from that of a family in the capital city that’s lost three grandparents this year. A third family who’s relying on continued eviction moratoriums to stay living indoors due to ongoing unemployment has still-different and valid priorities. We need to accept that all three families’ priorities are simultaneously right, even if disparate and conflicting.

Despite what the loudest voices want us to believe, there are few monsters roaming among us who long for a global, COVID-driven euthanasia of the old and infirm. Republics require dialogue, engagement, and compromise based ultimately on reason and significant support of specific action. We need to engage each other as neighbors and potential allies and partners instead of enemies and ideological adversaries. We won’t be past this pandemic for some time yet, and I fear our society cannot long function under this ever-increasing strain.

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This item was submitted on January 24, 2021 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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