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Editorials | Round and round (it goes)

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See you in 2022

ELECTION-YEAR politics “works” mainly because not a lot of us remember what was said and done a year or two ago. (A decade ago? Forget about it. If you can’t Google it then it never happened.) And so everything old seems new, and every platitude sounds insightful. Campaign promises are seldom reduced but are always recycled and reused. And we're still none the wiser.

When was the last time that you, as a voter, elected someone who promised not to fully fund PSS or healthcare or the retirement system? Did you ever vote for someone because s/he pledged to be corrupt? Did you ever hear a candidate for office declare that s/he is “for” budget deficits or overspending or nepotism? Have you ever re-read the election promises of past candidates and compared them with those of today? Have you ever wondered how many “new faces” or “educated young leaders” have been elected into office throughout all these years? Are you sure that in the next election year you would not be as dissatisfied and/or angry as you are now?

As for this year’s candidates, here’s a question:

The islands are facing the most severe economic crisis in Commonwealth history. It has affected everything near and dear to most voters: government jobs, pay raises, pension payments, tax refunds, medical referrals, scholarships, among many other things that require continuous government funding.

If elected, how could you possibly “fix” all, or let’s just say, some of those pressing issues?

Here’s another question. Do you think that an “in-depth investigation” to determine if a Guam senator sipped scotch whisky bought with CNMI public funds is a crucial first step in recalling furloughed government employees?

Since ever since

THE NMI had two main parties when the Commonwealth government was inaugurated over 42 years ago, and has always had two (sometimes more) parties since then. It is true that the Democratic Party began to disintegrate starting in 1997, but its role as the “other” party was taken up by other political groups: Covenant, Reform and various types of “Independents.” And so in each election year, CNMI voters have always had a lot of candidates to choose from. They even held primaries back in the day. In each general-election year from 1997 to 2014, in fact, there were more than two candidates running for governor.

Then and now, there’s the party of the “Ins” and the party or parties of the “Outs” who are always for “change” — until they get in.

The good doctor is right 

THE administration has eased Covid-19 restrictions to allow businesses (that are already allowed to open) to be open to the public from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. “Barbecue gatherings of no more than 25 people at the beaches are now permitted. Consumption of alcohol at public beaches will be allowed only until sunset. Curfew hours are now 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.”

These, however, are still “subject to the social distancing requirements stated in the CNMI Covid-19 Emergency Directives.”

Fair enough.

Perhaps what we also need are more ways to “empower” members of the public to prevent illness and “absolve themselves from the prevailing narrative based on fear and disdain,” as  Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo would put it in a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal.

An associate professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Dr. Ladapo noted that “fear stoked by the press gave birth to the dogma that preventing Covid-19 cases isn’t an issue only of health but of morality — even if prevention comes at the cost of livelihoods and futures, or increases poverty and domestic violence, or sacrifices children’s educational and emotional well-being. Statewide shutdowns were extended, and states with case increases were deemed to have incompetent leaders and citizens who were behaving ‘selfishly’ and ‘not following rules.’ ”

He said a “path to breaking the grip of fear on society is through empowerment. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance about masks focuses on protecting others and is cast in the language of altruism, it is doing little to empower citizens. Telling people their fate lies in the hands of others leaves them feeling powerless and frustrated when others don’t comply.”

Among Dr. Ladapo’s recommendations:

  • Resolve the shortage of personal protective equipment and provide older individuals, other vulnerable populations and anyone else who wants it with easy access to the tools that are reducing infection risk in healthcare workers, such as medical masks and face shields.
  • Communicate the role of good nutrition, exercise and stress reduction — all things we can control.
  • Increase the supply of effective therapies, improve communication about mortality risk — which is low for most people — and increase access to rapid testing for those in contact with vulnerable populations.

As for the “media and public derision that is haunting leaders and vexing citizens,” Dr. Ladapo said “everyone needs simply to stop participating. It is a terrible way to implement public-health interventions, and it sows conflict and diminishes morale.”

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