Like 79 of my House colleagues, I voted Monday in Special Session to extend the governor’s executive orders to help control the pandemic here in Connecticut. In the weeks leading up to the session, the anti-mask movement was very vocal. But it wasn’t very original.
Reading my recent emails, it doesn’t take long to see a pattern; certain glib, sound-bite-ready statements were repeated constantly by people across the state. And whether each writer honestly believed that he/she/they were the only ones with this insight, or the writers deliberately sent the same message in an effort to make it true through repetition, it’s time to parse each of these statements and respond to those who are no doubt fuming over the vote.
“It’s a power grab.”
Those of us in elected office feel anything but powerful right now. We are trying our best to keep people safe, keep businesses open, and keep children in school. Using our vote is what we were charged to do when you elected us. And we voted to give the Executive Branch leeway in taking commonsense steps to preventing more Covid deaths.
“King Ned Lamont is a dictator.”
I believe the governor is an honorable man doing an excellent job guiding Connecticut away from the rocks other states are crashing right into. For the record, I do not always see eye-to-eye with Gov. Lamont (I wish he’d agree with the Progressives’ call to make the uber-wealthy pay their fair share, for example) but he works extremely hard doing a nearly impossible job on behalf of the citizens of our state. It is important to note that of the 114 original executive orders, only 12 remain, and that during the last legislative session, we voted to give legislative leaders the power to override his orders, should we feel any of them were excessive. Hardly dictatorial.
“Democrats are acting like Nazis.”
This is a grave insult to everyone who fought real Nazis, to Jews, and to others persecuted by Nazis, including Catholics, intellectuals, artists, and LGBTQ folks. It is just shameful to compare wearing a mask to wearing a yellow star.
“You need to get back to work.”
I can’t speak for my colleagues across the aisle who aid and abet anti-maskers, but I’ve never worked harder in my life. Helping people through covid with unemployment compensation, business loans, ensuring safe ways to vote, rent relief and landlord/tenant arrangements, and the quotidian, every day needs of people who are really hurting, is a non-stop prospect. If they aren’t hard at work, too, I wonder why.
“It’s my body and my choice.”
As a pro-choice feminist, I object to the hijacking of this phrase by the anti-mask movement, many of whose members do not defend a woman’s bodily autonomy. And many of the legislators now espousing this mantra have a history of anti-choice votes.
“The Constitution guarantees my right to refuse to wear masks.”
Folks are fond of quoting the Preamble to the Constitution, but they are conveniently skipping over the meaning of some key words, which I have put in bold type:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.”
In other words, the Constitution exists for all of us, not those who would put their own freedom and safety before everyone else’s. And public health mandates have a long history in America. George Washington made his troops get vaccinated against smallpox, for example.
“The people have spoken.”
Yes, they have. Between 80 and 90 percent of Americans believe in wearing masks. Just because one group squawks louder than others doesn’t mean they represent the majority.
“Our children are not your political pawns.”
That’s right. And nor are they yours. Trotting them out like show ponies to serve your own political ends is abhorrent. Children are innately sensible, compassionate and open-minded, unless these traits are bred out of them by anti-mask parents ginned up on faux Fox outrage.
“Our children deserve better.”
I agree wholeheartedly. To me, “better” means better health, better community, and a better sense of personal responsibility. “Fighting” for your child’s right to become ill is nothing short of bizarre. And for the record, I’m quite sure the vaccinated public loves their children just as much as anti-vaxxers do — the difference is vaccinated people are willing to protect others’ kids in addition to their own.
“The emergency is over.”
I’ll answer this one with a question: When was the last time you actually spoke to emergency medical personnel? If your fellow citizens dying isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.
“Connecticut has the lowest rate in the country!”
The cognitive dissonance on this one is astonishing: we are doing well precisely because we have taken reasonable, strict measures. This argument actually proves the point: we need to be able to respond quickly to a spike in the infection rate.
“You’re in it for the money.”
Hmmm…this is one of my favorites. Since it’s a matter of public record, I will tell you that in Connecticut, state representatives make $28,000 a year. It’s supposed to be a part-time job, but to do it right is a full-time commitment that leaves precious little time for other paying work.
The list goes on, but you get the idea.
My colleagues and I were elected to act in the best interests of the entire community, not the entitled, highly motivated few. And we were elected to take the principled (if not always politically safe) stand. That’s exactly what we did on Monday, all the while devoutly hoping the governor won’t need to act on the power we gave him. If the “Depose King Ned” crowd really wanted to go back to business as usual, they’d wake up, get vaccinated and put on a damn mask.
Christine Palm is state representative for the 36th General Assembly District, comprising Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam.