As we enter the second year of the COVID pandemic, I find that I have had to absorb so much about topics with which I have previously had little familiarity.

I had heard of viruses but knew little about them except that they were different from bacteria and that antibiotics did not stop them. Having had good parents and teachers over the years, I knew that it is important for good hygiene to wash your hands and to cover your mouth when you cough. Recently, I had picked up on the recommended way to cover your mouth with your elbow instead of your hand because hands can more readily transmit disease, both to yourself and others.

So while I had a few of the hygiene basics in my repertoire of ingrained habits, this past year forced me to gain a better understanding of how to deal with a far deadlier virus than I was used to. So I have been absorbing all that I can from a variety of news sources, all of which are recognized as following established standards of journalism unlike any “news” one might derive from social media or random sources on the internet.

I have used that information to guide my behavior such that I would minimize my chances of catching COVID and passing it on to my loved ones.

So having been very attentive to all things COVID related, I have been mystified by the continuing debate over wearing masks. I have tried to understand the opposition, but have found their arguments to lack logical coherence.

Concerning mask-wearing, I hearken back to those childhood lessons to cover my mouth when I cough. Were my parents and teachers wrong to tell me that doing so would help prevent the spread of disease?

More recently, I have had the unfortunate experience of having to have a few surgeries. When the doctors and nurses walked into the operating room, were they wrong to be wearing masks? Did those masks not serve any useful purpose? Should I have felt equally comfortable that my health was being protected if they had walked in without wearing masks?

Beyond ignoring the health benefits of mask-wearing, some of the opposition to masks cites “freedom” as the motivator. That is, if I understand it correctly, we live in a country where the government should not restrict our freedom to do as we please.

I find it highly ironic that we have two local municipal elected officials leading the charge on this. When speaking to groups during my decades of city management experience, I explained that state and local government really only do two things: provide services and regulate behavior.

And for governing boards, once they adopt the annual budget, they have pretty much set out the services that they are going to provide over the next year. After that is done, most of their other activity involves regulating behavior.

When they consider and pass ordinances or laws, they are regulating behavior. And they do this in a wide range of spheres, ranging from speed limits to zoning to building codes to fire regulations to property crimes to crimes against persons. The list goes on and on.

It even extends to the Village Council in Pinehurst considering a purely aesthetic issue and proposing to regulate behavior as it relates to the planting of trees.

So where is the logical coherence in opposing masks (which prevent the spread of disease and protect people’s health) as being an affront to “freedom,” but not opposing the thousands of other ways government regulates behavior including whether someone has to plant trees on their lot as a matter of aesthetics? Are not all of these other ways also impacting people’s “freedom” to do as they please?

Of course, they are. And there can certainly be rational discussions to be had regarding what behavior should be regulated. However, amorphous appeals to “freedom” really don’t convince me of anything, particularly when the behavior attempting to be regulated is — literally — a matter of life and death.

Not being a nihilist, I believe as a Christian that we should all love one another and that our actions should be guided by that principle. As such, government regulation of our behavior in terms of mask-wearing seeks to protect everyone’s health through a minimal impact on everyone’s freedom to do as they please. It sounds like exactly what someone would want to do if they chose to follow Christ’s exhortation to love thy neighbor as thyself.

Kyle Sonnenberg, who served as Southern Pines town manager from 1988 to 2004, has returned in retirement after a three-decade career in city management in three states.

(5) comments

Sally Larson

I wonder why religious-based communities have been targeted by the anti-vaccine movement. Before Covid, the Hasidic Jewish community was especially targeted with the anti-measles vaccine which sparked a massive outbreak of measles. They were targeted again with the anti-covid vaccine movement and now have had rising cases in their community. Evangelicals are also targeted by the anti-vaccine movement and I can't help but wonder why.

Diana Smith


Thank you. I totally agree.

Kent Misegades

It is typical of a lifetime resident of the government feed trough, where fascism always begins, to make such statements. Does his belief apply to Antifa/BLM “peaceful protesters” who destroy property, cause violence to their fellow citizens and call for an end to the nuclear family?

Rachel Cullen

The first Amendment of the Constitution was put in place specifically to protect the American people from people like Mr. Sonnenburg. You see, it is precisely because our founding fathers understood the extent to which people would go in order to protect their own “beliefs” in the interest of “safety” that they made sure the populace was free from ideological tyranny. I do not doubt the author has done his research, and is clearly convinced through his understanding that mask wearing is the right course of action. The problem is the author has failed to understand that others have also done research (please try to refrain from straw man arguments of ‘social media’ information FYI) and have from this come to an alternate conclusion than himself. Instead of being comfortable in what he believes however, and caring on in his own particular path, he finds it necessary to become an apologist to convince others to join him, and shame all others that do not share his particular beliefs.

The fact is this - the author is entitled to his opinion, and his authority ends where his autonomy of corporal being ends. Ie - he has no right to dictate the actions of others. Therefore, he has a duty to convince them. To which he has failed completely to show anything other than 1. An appeal to ignorance 2. An appeal to a higher authority 3. Threat and 4. Straw man arguments (social media research).

I encourage the author to continue wearing a mask if this makes him feel more comfortable, and I also commend him for making his actions be in alignment with his personally held belief. I would however ask that the author respect the rights of the others in this community who do not share his beliefs.

FYI those who cannot convince people through sound rational argumentation often resort to force in order to implement their desired belief system. It is a good thing this individual is no longer a city manager as he has the marks of a true authoritarian.

Kathy Wright

Thank you Rachel for your common sense and logical comments. Masks do nothing to protect us and they are stupid. Just another way of trying to control us and "they" are doing a great job of that and trying to have everyone scared of everyone else. It is ludicrous. I am still in shock that the majority of people are falling for this stupidity and I cannot believe that we have turned into a bunch of sheep and lemmings.

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