A Lesson in Civics

Americans have failed our nation. We’ve failed to honor the sacrifices, beliefs, and dreams of our founding fathers. We have failed in our duty to educate ourselves, understand the principles upon which our nation was built, engage in civic responsibility, and hold politicians at the local, state, and national levels accountable.

We’ve been too busy watching sports and reality TV, buying toys, and “keeping up with the Joneses” to carry out our duty to those who forged a truly revolutionary path to birth this great nation.

Thankfully, that is changing all across America as parents, workers, and students demand their voices be heard and that their rights be respected. As more Americans hold public servants accountable, the political climate in America has entered a new season.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an education on this very issue. Monday morning, February 7, 2022, I submitted a public comment to the Ketchum City Council and Mayor of Ketchum, Idaho as well as to neighboring city councils and mayors.

I called out those who make rules for our community yet do not abide by those rules themselves. I highlighted that public servants made rules for our communities but failed in their responsibility to discuss and defend those policy choices in a public forum.

According to comments made by several Ketchum city council members during the meeting, they were taken aback by the tone of many public comments they received from exasperated constituents opposed to the longstanding mask mandate.

As Americans have generally been disengaged from the political process, such sudden and exercised engagement may have been a surprise.

One of the main refrains uttered by local politicians in communications with their constituents has been that they ‘trust the experts.’ County Blaine County Commissioner Chair Dick Fosbury wrote in an email (pg. 69) to Ketchum City Council member Amanda Breen, ”It is my professional opinion that you do not need to debate Ms. Manookian. Let her debate our State Epidemiologist, Dr. Christine Hahn.”  He continued, “This is not a debate, listen to the licensed professionals.”

For the record, I’d gladly debate Dr. Hahn or have one of the doctors and scientists with whom I’m in contact do so. I eagerly await an invitation from Chair Fosbury to do so in our valley and will reach out to him to make arrangements for such an event.

But his comments illustrate the primary purpose for which I write today: the need to remind politicians that voters did not elect faceless, nameless experts to represent them and experts are not accountable to the voters. 

The politicians elected to represent citizens are accountable to the people and we the people will hold them accountable.

Allowing anonymous experts to dictate policy unchallenged while hiding behind the defense that ‘I was just heeding the advice of the experts’ without publicly defending the science and rationale for one’s reasoning and policy choices is a clear abdication of the responsibilities of public office and a violation of our founding fathers’ intentions. 

Let’s not forget that “experts” make mistakes all the time and when the voices of dissenting experts are being censored and denigrated by government, as has happened during this crisis, it should alarm us all. 

Have we forgotten that experts brought us birth defects from drugs like Thalidomide and DES, that experts x-rayed pregnant women’s pelvises, approved Vioxx and opioids, and allowed mercury in eye drops, drugs, and children’s vaccines?

Are public servants unaware that the scientists who linked stomach ulcers to a pathogen were ostracized, defunded, and derided as lunatics only to be awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine twenty years later in 2005? 

Have elected officials not heard of regulatory capture and that FDA, CDC, and NIH are prime but unfortunate examples of this pernicious development? 

User fees paid directly to FDA by the pharmaceutical industry (the very industry it’s supposed to regulate), account for about 45% of FDA’s total budget and a whopping 65% of FDA’s drug approvers’ salaries. FDA has even gone so far as to ask a court to BLOCK release of Pfizer’s clinical trial data relating to its COVID injection for 75 years.

CDC takes millions from the pharmaceutical industry, giant private foundations, and other interested parties through its public-private partnership. It is the largest purchaser of vaccines in the US and even owns dozens of patents on vaccines while simultaneously being charged with ensuring the safety of vaccines.

Scientists at NIH own half the patent on the Moderna shot they themselves developed and earn up to $150,000 per year on these patents

NIH has received an estimated $2 billion royalties since 1991 from licensing fees on vaccines they developed.  These are conflicts of interest no wise person dismisses. Does this information concern you?

Educated Americans do not want or need fallible, human, often conflicted “experts” directing policy decisions behind closed doors unchallenged by those with differing opinions.

We want the light of day shining on all decisions made by public servants and we expect them to be capable of defending the reasoning and science underlying their policy choices.

If public servants are incapable of doing so, they have no business mandating policy.

Thankfully Americans are saying “no more.” We do not want just the preferred opinion of selected “experts,” who often have a vested interest in a particular outcome, dictating our policies. 

We do not want politicians that hide behind computer screens on zoom meetings and fail to appear in public before their constituents.

We do not want a process that denies constituents the ability to explain their perspective and hold those politicians accountable face-to-face

While many politicians talk about the importance of their mission to protect public health, I think they misconstrue that mission and imperative.

Public servants are supposed to ensure that corporations don’t dump toxins into our rivers, that there is no waste on the streets, and that we have a clean and safe environment in which to live, socialize, conduct business, attend school, etc.

Nowhere in our founding documents, indeed nowhere in law, does it state that public health power extends to forcing an individual to cover their face (and airways) in what can only be described as a dehumanizing and demeaning exercise in subservience, not to mention an unhealthy one.

Nowhere does any statute assert that experimental drugs should be forced or coerced into or onto anyone’s body. 

It may surprise you to know that CDC does not rely on a single controlled trial to prove the efficacy of masks, rather CDC ignores the dozens of controlled trials that show masks are ineffective. 

Anyone who has delved into the matter (see mask section) will know that ever since the Spanish flu, masks were universally viewed as ineffective at stopping the spread of airborne illnesses until so-called experts manufactured new “science” to support the narrative just a few months into the COVID crisis.

Any thinking person must question whether this “science” that suddenly contradicted a century of research, served as a convenient tool to frighten, control, and divide the public resulting in the loss of our rights and the destruction of all our societal and constitutionally protected and understood norms.

Many politicians display an utter disrespect and disregard for our founding fathers and founding principles and it is high time that they wake up and remember that our government is of, by, and for the people – and that they serve us. 

Furthermore, when attempting to impose restrictions on our freedom of movement and our liberty in any way, shape, or form, in violation of our rights, they should expect to be held accountable in the strongest peaceful manner possible.

That they are surprised when Americans peacefully protest reflects our decades-long failure to engage in the political process.

I remind these public servants that speech is not violence, and that anger is the result of people being dismissed, derided, and slurred as fringe conspiracy, anti-vaxxers, anti-Semites, racists, and more. When public servants dismiss and smear their own communities, they are going to feel the displeasure of the people. 

Hurling the “antisemitism” label at those with whom you disagree is despicable and inappropriate.  Unfortunately, this trend is a hallmark of the “cancel culture” plaguing our country and to which so many, sadly, to our detriment and potential national destruction, seem to subscribe. 

Big tech and social media spawned public sharing of hitherto private information to faceless followers and friends, many of whom post nasty comments hidden safely behind their screens.

Big Tech siloed users into echo chambers where they remained oblivious to other perspectives.

Big Tech quashed challenges to the mainstream opinion, labeling only those from Big Tech-sanctioned sources such as CDC and NIH as legitimate.

Americans removed from face-to-face contact combined with limited information and perspective begot what we now know as cancel culture of anyone with different opinions. 

This development not only shut down public discourse, it also allowed those who promulgated unlawful and wrongheaded policies to cocoon themselves in the misguided notion that their “expert-driven” opinions are absolute and that their decisions are unassailable because Big Tech censored opposing viewpoints, used fake fact-checkers to label them false, and created the impression there was no legitimate debate through their cancel culture tactics.

This is a loathsome, poisonous trend infecting our populace. Unfortunately, it is pushed by national leaders and now, it would seem, even local ones.

Ketchum city councilwoman Amanda Breen charged on the public record during a Ketchum City Council meeting that the work of Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc. and our lawsuits are anti-Semitic.

Let’s be clear, anti-Semitism means being hateful against those of Jewish origin because of their religion and race, it means discriminating against them because of their religion and race, it means isolating them, marginalizing them, and dehumanizing them because of their religion and race. 

It does not mean referring to the Nuremberg Code as a seminal event in human history which instilled in the global consciousness and codified in international law the moral and ethical principle of informed consent, meaning that we do not force medical interventions, whether experimental or not, on human beings. 

Prior voluntary informed consent of all medical interventions is requisite for the practice of ethical medicine.

These legal norms have been reinforced in national laws and in international treaties, declarations, and agreements ranging from the Nuremberg Code in 1947 to the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964 and the UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights in 2005.

That Amanda Breen deliberately conflated a reference to the Nuremberg Code in our lawsuits with anti-Semitism is unconscionable. That she doubled down when challenged is even worse.

But perhaps worst of all, Breen’s snipe is aimed at canceling the point of the lawsuit, namely, that the Nuremberg Code which seeks to protect human rights must be honored. 

Of course, she is free to say whatever she chooses to say, and I support her right to freedom of speech, but for a public servant to call a lawful, ethical person, and the nonprofit I run, anti-Semitic is not only inaccurate, it is deeply disappointing as it seeks to discredit and cancel my views and opinions through a highly charged smear rather than engage in debate.

I publicly challenged Breen to identify an instance where I have been racist, where I have been bigoted, where I have discriminated against anyone on the basis of their gender race, religion, or any immutable trait. She has not responded but I know she will not be able to as I have fought against bigotry in all its guises my entire adult life. 

That Breen has not been condemned by the local newspaper, by her community, or by other public servants speaks to the failure of Americans to understand our history, our founding principles, and the responsibilities attendant with public service.

History teaches that this kind of divisive rhetoric won’t end well. To those of you who dishonestly and dishonorably call those with differing opinions anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, and other slurs, there will be a day of reckoning.

You are pushing our country towards a breaking point, you are separating us, and it will only hurt us all.

At first, I was offended that someone I’ve known for many years would make such a statement but then I saw the gift of a teaching opportunity for me, my friends, and my community. 

Instead of shrinking away from such defamatory interactions, I view it as an opportunity to expose the lack of appreciation for our founding principles and our history and to hold public servants accountable for their votes and actions.

I hope my stand empowers others to do the same as that is the only answer to the strife we face. 

Americans must summon the courage to stand for our rights as sovereign human beings. Public servants must embrace an informed populace and actively engage their opinions as doing so will only strengthen our communities and our nation.

By coming together to embrace our shared history we can forge a new path, a better path for all.

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