Lauren Cohen: Father Knows Best Featured

It seems that the citizens of San Juan County have a new father figure to make decisions on what is best for us and enact punishment when we don’t listen. The County’s hired public health officer, Frank James is a name few of us had even heard a mere two months ago. Now he is experiencing his fifteen minutes of fame though I suspect not in any way he would have liked. He is most certainly a fine man, educated and well-meaning who finds himself in a difficult position.

Based on reports from the recent health board meeting, the new order requiring residents to wear a mask in public came out of our health official not liking what he saw last weekend with people having the temerity to be outside without a mask and supposedly not social distancing. Exceptionally scientific analysis from our county who assured residents that decisions will be based on science and data….of their choosing of course. It sounds more like dad got mad at the children for not following directions and will show us who’s in charge with more punitive “nanny state” restrictions.

Wearing a mask to protect yourself is good idea for many and imperative to some. The role of our board of health should be to make recommendations to our elected officials who in turn educate and create suggested guidelines for the public to follow. To force healthy citizens to cover their faces in public is to intentionally dehumanize and control your population. You can claim it for our safety and our own good but it is nothing more than State paternalism with the only possible outcome being the destruction of liberty, personal responsibility and individualism.

Enforcement should not even be an issue. Our county officials must convince the public of why we should voluntarily comply. The San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies are exceptional dedicated public servants who are sworn to uphold the United State Constitution and who everyday put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe from serious crimes that threaten our community. It is unimaginable that our county officials would ask them to waste their time harassing, citing or even arresting citizens for not having their face covered. What other options are there? Create a special Face Mask force to stalk otherwise law abiding residents to make sure they are covered. Will you rely on a Stasi-like network of snitches to find the offenders? We seem to be moving backwards rather than forward.

Far too much power lies in the hands of unelected public health officers who can interpret and manipulate science and statistics to grant themselves unlimited justifications to do whatever they want. Frank James does not feel ready to ask the State to allow San Juan County to move to Phase 2 of opening. Maybe he will think about it next week. Of course he continues to collect his salary paid by the very taxpayers he deems unworthy of returning to our businesses to make a living. No free people should concede this kind of power without substantial input from those most affected.

Respect for individual autonomy and restraints on government power are at the heart of American civil liberties. Americans, Washingtonians, San Juan Islanders are perfectly able to work through this pandemic with voluntary compliance based on guidance of trusted experts. Business owners are completely capable of creating and maintaining an environment that helps prevent the spread of illness.

Tyrannical overreach coupled by draconian penalties and communist like surveillance just undermines the goal of a healthy community. The destruction of freedom does not make us any safer. Father does not know best.

Lauren Cohen

San Juan Island


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