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Letter: Sen. Paul Utke and Rep. Steve Green are failing their fellow citizens

Rep. Paul Utke is doing the political version of crying “fire” in a theater, and that is not about freedom of speech, but a dereliction of public trust.

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After several exchanges by email with State Senator Paul Utke, I realized that whether he said mask mandates were “criminal,” or that half the covid vaccines were placebos or that there were eight or 10 or many at the town hall, misses the point. Paul is engaging in a well known ploy of trying to duck responsibility by trying to get the reader side tracked. The real issue is this: Paul Utke is engaging in behavior that discourages people to do the two most important things medical science tells us will conquer the pandemic, wearing masks and getting fully vaccinated. He is doing the political version of crying “fire” in a theater, and that is not about freedom of speech, but a dereliction of public trust.

When a public servant stands before us, what they say and what they don’t say matters. Paul stood quietly next to Rep. Steve Green, who traffics in conspiracy theories, some so outrageous it makes me wonder if he is fit to serve the public without being guilty of causing serious harm, much like former President Trump’s suggestion that people inject bleach into their body to kill the covid virus. Paul may not have said mask mandates were "criminal," but his stance, and that of many of Minnesota’s Republican office holders that refusing to wear a mask, a simple and very necessary way to protect the community, is a legitimate choice for a citizen.

It is not what a good citizen does. It is an act of selfishness which is filling up our ICU beds and killing people. Paul’s response to the Editorial Board opinion piece continues to confuse selfishness in refusing to wear a mask or get vaccinated, with an expression of personal freedom. He writes “people have a right to determine for themselves what is proper to put into their bodies.”

I wonder if he feels that such control of one’s body should extend to women choosing what to do with their bodies in cases of reproductive health? I wonder if Paul refuses to have his children go to public school because all children are required to get vaccinated for measles, etc. I wonder if Paul pays taxes? I wonder if Paul wears his seatbelt? I am pretty sure an insurance salesman would approve of the fact that we all need to have auto insurance. All these are things we citizens do for the common good.

Finally, standing by listening to Steve Green make statements that impact our health as a community, untrue statements that give people “permission” to ignore the best advice medical science has to defeat this pandemic, is inexcusable. It is an act of political irresponsibility.

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