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By Daniel Bobinski

While escorting a woman out of the Boise airport for not wearing a mask, a Boise police officer admitted he had not read the mayor’s mask order and was unfamiliar with its exemptions. When the woman offered to show him the mayor’s order and that she qualified for an exemption, the officer said he didn’t have time to read it.

If people are wondering what the world is coming to, this is just one example: police officers “following orders” and enforcing laws they don’t understand. If this phrase rings a bell, it’s because it was made famous at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, when soldiers and officers of the Nazi Party defended their crimes in the concentration camps as, “just following orders.”

According to a study on coercion published in the journal, “Current Biology,” this defense is normally dismissed by courts as an attempt to avoid responsibility.  In our Boise example, we have an officer of the law who admits being ignorant of the orders he’s enforcing, but he acts anyway, not thinking about the consequences. His behavior resembles Nazi Germany more than rule-of-law America, but it’s likely he’d quickly deny that with his “just following orders” claim.

This is a dangerous, slippery slope for America.

Exemptions be damned

Let me fill you in on the story as it was related to me directly by the woman who was escorted out. I should tell you that because of cancel culture, she does not want her name mentioned for fear of reprisals, so I’ll just refer to her as Jane.

Jane has a condition that exempts her from wearing a mask under the city’s mandatory mask order. However, because airlines will not let her fly without wearing a mask, she could not make a planned trip to visit family friends on the other side of the country. But she didn’t want that to stop her son – a minor – from being able to make the trip, so she bought him a ticket.

On the day of the trip, Jane brought her son to the Boise airport. With him being a minor who had never traveled alone before, Jane wanted to escort him to the gate. The Southwest Airlines ticketing agent issued her a gate pass that allowed her to go through security, and at no time did the agent say anything about masks being mandatory.

Jane and her son went through security without a hitch. Both were maskless, and nobody from TSA said a word about it. They arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare, so Jane found an empty row of seats and selected two seats for them at the end of that row.

As people started arriving for the flight, a Southwest agent announced that masks were required without exception for all Southwest passengers from the time they entered the airport until they left the airport with their luggage.  This seemed odd to Jane. She wondered how Southwest could enforce those rules in the city’s airport, but she knew she was exempt, per Section 1.b.ii of Boise’s mask order:

Exemption: Persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering. A person is not required to provide documentation demonstrating that the person cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering.

After a few moments, the Southwest gate agent came through the seating area carrying masks. She told Jane’s son that he had to wear a mask, so he pulled one out of his carry on and put it on. When the agent told Jane she had to wear a mask, too, Jane informed her that she qualified for an exemption. The agent replied, “There are no exemptions,” and she handed Jane a mask. Jane did not put it on.

A few minutes later, Jane noticed the agent talking with a police officer. Soon the officer approached Jane and said, “You either need to put on a mask or you need to leave.”

Not wanting to cause a scene or get arrested in front of her already nervous minor child, Jane says she acted against her conscience and decided to leave. And the officer escorted her every step of the way.

Officer ignorance

Jane tells me that as the officer escorted her out of the airport, she was appalled at his lack of understanding regarding the rule he was enforcing.  When she asked if he had read the order, he replied he had not. According to Jane, the officer said, “I’ve been trained – I don’t have time to read it.”

When Jane asked about his understanding of the city’s order, he turned it back on her, telling her to explain what she knew about it.

When Jane said the order exempted people with medical conditions, she says the officer replied, “If someone had an exemption, they would have papers to prove that.”

Per the mayor’s order, proof is not required, but Jane continued. When she told him masks were not required if a person remained six feet from someone, the officer stated that Jane had been sitting within six feet of another passenger. Jane pointed out that she had already been seated and obviously maskless when the passenger came up and sat down anyway, and lots of other seats were available near people wearing masks. That didn’t matter to the officer, who retorted that it was Jane’s responsibility to keep that other passenger safe, and she was being irresponsible for not moving when he arrived.

Jane decided not to point out that as the officer walked within six feet of her as he escorted her out, he regularly pulled his own mask away from his face, exposing his nose and mouth.

It should be noted that both the Boise Police Department and the Boise Airport were contacted for comment about this story, but neither organization responded.

Views from a psychologist

I’ve written previously on mask use and how cities, counties, and states are mandating masks without considering their downside, but I sought input on this airport situation from Dr. Lynn Laird, a psychologist in the Boise area.

After talking with Laird about Jane’s story, she said, “The Boise mask rule has exceptions just like all mask rules around the country, and those exceptions make allowances for people who can’t wear masks because of medical or psychological reasons.” According to Laird, “It’s unconscionable for Southwest Airlines – let alone the Boise police – to ignore those exemptions.”

Laird says rape victims can be traumatized by having something over their face, as it can cause panic, anxiety, or tremendous psychological shock. “If we’re trying to protect the most vulnerable,” she says, “shouldn’t we also be concerned about those who are psychologically vulnerable?”

Likewise, Laird says, people can experience anxiety if they’ve been attacked by someone wearing a mask, or if someone has been robbed.

Such is a story about a Pennsylvania woman name Dawn Nau. During the first week masks were made mandatory in her state, Nau decided to be brave and wore a mask to visit the grocery store. But it was too much for her. After being previously robbed at gunpoint by someone wearing a mask who threatened to blow her brains out, when Nau saw a man wearing a mask she became soaked in sweat and was unable to breathe. “I looked like I had taken a shower,” Nau said, as reported by the Altoona Mirror.

Overcome by emotional flashbacks, Nau took off her mask and had to leave the store.

Discriminating against those with disabilities

Laird told me that her own mother has been mask-bullied for having a disability. At age 78, Laird’s mother has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and uses a CPAP with oxygen when she sleeps. Wearing a mask cuts down her oxygen intake, but she tries to comply when going out. One day after shopping, when she was nearly back to her car, Laird’s mother couldn’t breathe. She took off her mask and started coughing. As she did, another customer walked by and scolded her, saying, “You need to be wearing your mask!”

“We’re not supposed to discriminate on the basis of race or sexual orientation,” Laird says, “but it’s okay to discriminate against people with disabilities?”

“Right now our society is concerned about people’s physical health,” Laird says, “and of course we should be. But should we be establishing rules that negatively impact people’s mental and emotional health?”

Laird predicts the number of suicides will go up because of mask mandates. “Are the people making these mask orders taking this into account?”

Laird also believes mask mandates are harming society, with citizens now feeling emboldened to mask-bully without taking physical, emotional, or psychological issues into account.

Based on the over-reaching mask rules we’re seeing in our country and the ignorance of some police officers enforcing those rules, America is in danger of slipping into a police state. If that happens, our elected representatives will be merely figureheads, and agencies and businesses will establish arbitrary laws that are randomly enforced, just like in Venezuela, Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany.

Woe to the city, county, state, or nation that lets that happen.

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Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a certified behavioral analyst, best-selling author, corporate trainer, executive coach, and columnist. He’s also a veteran and a self-described Christian Libertarian who believes in the principles of free market capitalism – while standing firmly against crony capitalism.

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