Legitimacy lost: Why COVID-19 laws meet such resistance

We were told we needed to wear masks.  We were told masks were nice but not needed.  Someone came up with social distancing of six feet, not five or seven.  Then we were told to save our lives we had to kill our economy—liquor could be sold and babies aborted—but you could not go to church.  In California Guv News declared that singing in church or chanting was the cause of the spread of the virus—he could not find a source for that canard—but outlawed anyway.  Now he has outlawed and closed churches.

“The situation involving disruptive disobedience, like nearly every other human situation, is not simply about listening to people’s’ words or tracing their actions. Instead, it’s about hearing what they are sincerely saying and understanding their message. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen populations, including here within the Bay Area, struggle with questions about exactly how prominent (or intrusive) government rule should be.

We are not unique in asking these questions; even the greatest philosophers struggled with this puzzle. These questions are repeatedly put on display throughout our country with contentious arguments about new legislation and countless appeals to the United States Supreme Court. I doubt we will ever resolve the debate with any earth-shattering clarity – which is okay.

Why would we believe government when top leaders became mentally ill with a new disease, Russian Collusion Delusion?  Why believe a government when the previously President, Obama and his VP Biden, attempted a coup of the newly elected President—helped by the CIA, FBI and the State Department?  Can government be believed is not the question.  Why should government be believed is the real question.

A nurse administers a test at a drive-through COVID-19 coronavirus testing station, set up by the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

Estorga: Legitimacy lost: Why COVID-19 laws meet such resistance

by Special to San José Spotlight, 7/13/20   

The crisis of authority is not unique to California or COVID-19. The question is not even new to government itself. In fact, the question about if, when and how an authority shall govern dates back to the origins of human life. This conundrum is not about Dr. Sara Cody, it’s about trust in an imperfect government and a test of legitimacy.

The situation involving disruptive disobedience, like nearly every other human situation, is not simply about listening to people’s’ words or tracing their actions. Instead, it’s about hearing what they are sincerely saying and understanding their message. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen populations, including here within the Bay Area, struggle with questions about exactly how prominent (or intrusive) government rule should be.

We are not unique in asking these questions; even the greatest philosophers struggled with this puzzle. These questions are repeatedly put on display throughout our country with contentious arguments about new legislation and countless appeals to the United States Supreme Court. I doubt we will ever resolve the debate with any earth-shattering clarity – which is okay.

I have spent my career in two professional circles: one as a practitioner and the other as an academic. The practitioner in me knows that a police officer is not the same as a police chief, and that neither of those are a military general, and that nothing is the same as the president of the United States. However, the academic in me knows those differences don’t matter. They are all “the government.” And when someone interacts with any public official in any capacity, they are simply interacting with “the government.”

With that said, it’s also important to acknowledge that “the government” has an incredible, and sometimes devastating, record of imperfectly using power. Look at the conversations our society is having about the Black Lives Matter movement. On one hand, our community is proving, time and time again, that there are moments where “the government” should not be blindly trusted – whether that’s a bad cop somewhere, an impotent District Attorney or an ignorant elected official. And on the other hand, at
the very same moment, our community is being asked to cope with a global pandemic by yielding unprecedented power to that very same authority – “the government.”

This brings us to an incredibly important question: Why does it matter that a police officer does the right thing? The answer is simple: In addition to all those ideas about respecting the value of every single person’s life, it’s also because another government official, like a Public Health Officer, might one day need cooperation from society.

The government is facing a crisis of legitimacy. The disruptions we see throughout our communities, and resistance to authority, is simply a reaction to a history of absolute power being irresponsibly yielded. And when those sensors go off, our instinct tells us to revert to our primal needs for safety and security – even if the reaction is disjointed, slipshod or inconvenient.

This theater of disobedience isn’t about Dr. Cody or any single public official. It’s not even about a series of confusing or inconsistent laws, and it’s not about failed leadership in our state and nation. It’s not even about an unwillingness to be governed.

The cries are agitating by design and are a reaction to a crisis of authority. And while rules are certainly a staple of democratic societies, so too are disruptive pleas for a more perfect union – a union with responsible, balanced and humble authority.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. What it is about is the govt lying to us all the time and not even trying to hide the fact that it is a lie. Take the mask for instance. The govt tells us if we do not wear the mask we will catch the virus and die. It is the only thing keeping us from catching the virus. If that is true than why are they forcing all the business to shut down? Other than restaurants and bars they should all be allowed to open if the people wear masks. On the other hand if the masks do not work and we have to stay closed why are they forcing us to wear masks?

  2. William Hicks says

    HERE’S THE IRONY:

    1. Much news talks about the decisions need to be based on science and medical experts.

    2 Gov. Newsom tells the medical expert in Ventura County, Dr. Levin, to close down businesses based on his personal political preference. SO, the politicians directs the expert to follow his political agenda.

  3. Otis Needleman says

    Newsom, just like the rest of California government, has no credibility and cannot be trusted. Recall him.

  4. Since February when this pandemic started, I have been waiting for the public to become enlightened regarding WHAT TO DO WHEN THEY GET SICK AND THINK THEY HAVE THE VIRUS. All they say is you can go to your doctor to get tested and then you must go home and stay in quarantine for 14 days!!! THAT IS A DEATH SENTENCE. And the Orange County Health Care Agency (800- 564-8448) is still instructing everyone do just that!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am still waiting for someone in government, or the President if necessary, to announce what the public should do exactly, which is:

    1. If you feel sick, have a temperature, cough, sore throat, or most anything unusual, SEE THE DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY. Get tested there and then DEMAND a prescription for HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE, Z-PAK AND ZINC.

    Go home and rest and continue taking the medication until gone. Go back for retest.

    If this was done, we could all go back to work and on with our lives and have a great economy once again.

    i AM STILL WAITING AND PEOPLE ARE STILL DYING — NOT FROM THE VIRUS BUT FROM LACK OF INFORMATION SINCE THEY WERE NEVER CORRECTLY INFORMED.

    Obviously, life does not matter very much in this country any longer — only POWER.

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