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A little jääräpää

To the editor:

For almost a year, I’ve watched the Copper Country, like every other corner of our vast world, suffer through COVID-19. Most of our folks have risen to the challenge with ingenuity, a dollop of grace, and a pinch of good will for their neighbors. We’ve donned our masks, social-distanced, and sacrificed in small and not so small ways our sacred ceremonies and cherished celebrations, sometimes our livelihoods, and oftentimes our sanity. These folks overflow with that special brand of Copper Country chutzpah we might know better by the Finnish, sisu. 

Sadly, we’ve endured our fair share of the opposite of sisu, those shrill few among us who just can’t seem to see beyond their own reflection in the mirror, come hell or high water, science or common sense. They flout practical public health guidelines with brazen disregard for their friends and neighbors, going the extra mile by draping their petulance in hairbrained conspiracy theories and fantasies of state oppression, waving their flags, thumping their cherry-picked scripture (be it biblical or constitutional), all the while crying “don’t tread on me.” All par for the farce, but hardly sisu. 

I consulted a Finnish friend (someone actually from Finland and fluent in Finnish), and there is a word for our local maskless avengers. After long deliberation in the sauna, he suggested jääräpää. Like sisu, it’s difficult to translate, but jääräpää is basically a stubborn someone, but in an especially pernicious way. Imagine a person who insists on walking around the hardware store with their nose poking above their mask–the epidemiological equivalent of shopping with their barn door open and their horse hanging out. We keep saying, “ew, gross, put your horse away,” but this patriot just refuses to zip up because of some disingenuous hot-take on freedom or liberty. This individual wouldn’t have much sisu, but they would be a  jääräpää. 

For my part, I wish a heartfelt thank you to everyone in the Copper Country with real sisu. To each and every one of you masking up and doing what it takes to care for and love one another so we can come through this pandemic in fewer pieces–don’t let the jääräpää get you down.

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