By REP. BEN CARPENTER
This weekend there has been a firestorm of comments and concern regarding my part in an email conversation between Alaska legislators.
My email comments have been perceived by many to be offensive. For any offense taken, I apologize because my words are my responsibility. It was not my intent to be offensive; quite the opposite.
I take my responsibility as the voice of the people who elected me very seriously. I also hold the Jewish people in the highest regard. I do not take myself so seriously that I cannot recognize that the words I wrote, and those attributed to me, do not adequately reflect the esteem I hold for either group of people. I hope to correct that error now.
The purpose for my word choice in my email was torpedoed by the analogy I chose to use and the inadequacy of a few sentences. As I reflect back on those few moments it took to draft my words, I had hoped to draw attention to a complex mix of issues: government overreach, personal liberty and privacy, and fear. These are issues that are near and dear to myself and the constituents that I represent.
In haste, I chose to juxtapose a proposed Alaskan legislative requirement to wear a ‘COVID-19 free sticker’ with the Star of David that the Jews were required by their government to wear during the Holocaust.
This comparison was not intended to marginalize the memory of the Holocaust but to ensure similar behavior can never happen again.
What I couldn’t possibly say in the moment was that the Holocaust didn’t begin with the labeling of undesirables and heinous deprivation of personal liberty. It began with a contagious fear amongst the German people that eventually led to the widespread support of horrifying government overreach.
While not reaching the level of depravity of the German people, and certainly not an equal comparison, our own people labeled women with a scarlet letter and interned Japanese-Americans during WWII out of fear. We must be eternally vigilant and hold liberty in high regard if we are to prevent such behavior in the future.
I could have chosen a different analogy that didn’t detract from the fact that we are faced with a decision to accept or reject our government’s deprivation of our liberty, privacy, and economic security because of fear of a viral disease that has claimed only ten lives in the state of Alaska out of a population of about 700,000.
I do not want to minimize the tragic loss of life but I must call attention to the disproportionate government response. Without a miracle cure, it is likely that as we open the Alaskan economy back up, we will experience more COVID-19 illnesses.
The fear associated with the illness isn’t going away. We must not allow our response to our fear to drive us to accept additional security at the expense of our liberty. The price to maintain the freedom and liberties we take for granted is high. We must be willing to pay the price or we will lose both.
If legislative leaders can force legislators to wear a badge revealing their medical status, then they can force the general public to be labeled too. And when the label isn’t enough to prevent disease transmission, what then? Shall we follow the lead of other states and bring legal sanctions on people who refuse to take a COVID-19 test or reveal the results of their medical procedure? If there is no cure, will we willingly support the forced segregation of Alaskans? Will we demand loved ones be separated from their families in the name of protecting children or the one or two percent of the population that may die from the disease? I hope the answers are a resounding no!
Our National Motto is still ‘In God We Trust’. So, I have hope for the future. I know that white supremacists like Adolf Hitler are fearful bullies who must be exterminated from the face of the earth.
I know that it may be next to impossible to do the same with the COVID-19 virus. I know that Alaskans cherish their independence and individual liberties and I know they are fully capable of standing up to bullies and viruses with courage and compassion.
Ben Carpenters is a representative from District 29, Nikiski.