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This pandemic has been used as a justification for expanding governmental powers and strict obedience to authority

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Rick SteberWhen it comes to health issues, it is our individual responsibility to protect ourselves and minimize our personal risks. We do that same thing when we cross a street or take a trip. What concerns me about the COVID-19 outbreak is in using it as an excuse to impose unjust rules and regulations on citizens. If a prudent man or woman feels the need to self-quarantine, wear a mask and practice social distancing out of self-preservation, they should do just that. We should not be coerced or forced to take certain actions mandated by politicians. Yet this is exactly what is happening during this pandemic.

Elected officials – local, state and federal – act as if this health crisis gives them the authority to impose rules over the private lives and activities of citizens in ways that conflict with the spirit and intent of our basic rights guaranteed under the constitution. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer believes it is within her power to ban garden stores from selling fruit or vegetable plants and seeds. State officials in Vermont ordered large retailers selling critical items such as food and prescription drugs to stop the sale of "nonessential products" such as clothing, electronics and toys.

Other state officials have abused their power by issuing stay-at-home orders and empowering police to harass and fine individuals for nothing more than taking a walk. A passenger on a bus in Philadelphia was dragged off that bus by police for not wearing a face mask. In Colorado a father was handcuffed in front of his family for playing T-ball with his daughter in an empty park. The governor of Oregon closed all beaches, parks, boat ramps and trailheads. These are "public" places where Oregonians generally practice social distancing while feeding their mental and physical well-being.

We can ponder how many lives would have been lost if we had failed to take measures to minimize the spread of this particular disease. We will never know if any of the measures were effective. Were they even necessary? In making the decision — to purposefully gut our economy and shut down Oregon and America — one factor that was never considered by the bureaucrats was the trampling of the fundamental rights and freedom of citizens.

The governor of Oregon issued quarantines, travel restrictions, and forced shutdowns of all but "essential business" — while keeping open state-run liquor stores and pot shops. This is an example of hypocrisy, heavy-handed authoritarian overreach and an abuse of power. Such strict and severe action should be reserved for a major national catastrophe and not a health issue which will most likely prove no more deadly than the flu, and certainly less challenging than the 300,000 people who contract Lyme disease each year and suffer under its crippling effects, or the 300,000 premature deaths caused annually by obesity.

Face it, this is not a war.

There are no coronavirus boots on the beach. There are no bombs in the air. This pandemic has been used as a justification for expanding governmental powers and strict obedience to authority, at the expense of personal freedom. The question is, in the future, are we willing to destroy our economy and give up individual rights as Oregon and American citizens each time Henny Penny declares "The sky is falling!"

Rick Steber is a Crook County resident and Oregon author. He can be reached at 541-447-3115.


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