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Might or flight – who’s right in the COVID-19 fight?

06 / 20 / 2020

Might or flight — who’s right in the coronavirus fight? 

Of course, there’s no simple answer. 

Theoretically and practically, we’re in one of those gray areas. Most people aren’t comfortable when an issue isn’t black and white in terms of its clarity. But I am. The middle track between extremes and deficiencies is the very definition of The Golden Mean. 

It’s been almost four months since the coronavirus epidemic really began in earnest in the United States. In mid-March, based on what I’d seen in other countries, I could not figure out why the president nor the governors had not yet shut everything down. It seemed so obvious to me — just mathematically — that if we didn’t do it, the virus would spread like wildfire. 

At the same time, I realized that this might not work. Especially in a federalist system where each state and their respective local government leaders were going to have to make those calls. This isn’t New Zealand. 

Yes, the president mismanaged this crisis. He should have taken the lead and made it crystal clear from the get-go that we were going to all act in unison. He took way too long to issue “guidelines.” And once he did, he should have been on FOX News every night in primetime driving home the message that he meant it — no matter what your political stripe. No coded messages. Leadership.  

The president had a massive political opportunity to unify the country. He whiffed. 

Now it’s late June, and we still have the same tension. We still face the same question: How are Americans going to retain or regain their livelihood and lifestyle (or some semblance of it) — without creating a massive new spread of COVID-19? 

We all know, even if it goes unsaid, that this thing could get a whole lot worse before it gets better. 

America’s epic political divide makes the challenge even tougher. Such is the case with so many of our major public policy questions, but most don’t have the potential to mean life-and-death for every one of us.  

But it’s more than politics. It’s about how each of us wants to live our life versus the collective goal of protecting all of our lives — and there’s the rub. They just don’t line up. 

A perfect example of this tension can be seen in Bill Maher’s words from a recent show. A liberal who consistently supports Democrats and progressive policies, Maher made his position clear: 

“I’ll take the odds. I’m here. No fear. Get used to it. Safety is a virtue. But if it was the only one, nothing would ever get done.” 

I know folks who vehemently disagree with Maher, and others who agree. Public opinion polls continue to suggest that there are far fewer of the latter. 

But who’s right? Is it the majority of epidemiologists who’re warning that we’ve totally jumped the gun and that new regional outbreaks are the result? 

If you live in Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Arizona or Texas — where new high case totals were reported this week — you might say yes. You might be more reticent to get back out there with fewer or no safety precautions. 

But if Tulsa is any indication, plenty of people say the answer is no. As I write this, thousands of Oklahomans (and others) are filtering into the BOK Center sans masks. 

Is that a show of “might?” Or is it a show of stupidity and lack of consideration? 

Again, it depends on who’s answering the question. 

It has been said that once a president is presented with a unilateral decision to make — any decision — there’s no simple answer. No easy answer. The choice is usually between bad and worse. 

I think about and I quote that expression often when discussing the coronavirus. 

Like so many folks, I’m worried about my parents and other loved ones getting infected through the continued spread of the disease. I’m also very concerned about the frontline medical staff who are still overworked, under-appreciated and face greater danger than the rest of us. 

At the same time, I’m terribly worried about the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs and wages; so many of whom were struggling economically to begin with. I think about it every day. 

How do we keep hundreds of thousands more people from dying during this crisis — without inflicting more pain on millions of others who are facing financial peril through permanent job loss? 

I don’t have the answer. I’ve yet to hear from someone who does  someone who has the elixir to avoid both consequences at the same time. 

It’s a gray area — whether people want to admit it or not. 

All of that said, I’m pretty sure that thousands of people huddling tightly in an enclosed space without any facial protection is not a great idea. 

“Might” ain’t always right.