Every day, it seems like the country becomes a little more divided into two separate camps: Those who want to throw the doors of the economy open and get back to normal and those who want to keep us locked down for the indefinite future. Is this the truth, or is this just the way our country is reflected back at us by a media that thrives on this kind of division?
If we had to speculate, we’d say it’s closer to the latter. We have to imagine that the number of people who want to government to go around and weld people into their houses, Wuhan-style, is insignificant to the point of near-statistical zero. Likewise, we don’t think there’s a large contingent of people eager to pack into a crowded theater to watch the latest Marvel offering quite yet. The media treats us as if this is the divide. As if there’s one group of Americans who want everything shut down and locked until we have a vaccine…and then this other group that wants to completely pretend that there’s no such thing as COVID-19. We just aren’t buying it.
That said, there are real divisions. Maybe they’re more rhetorical than anything else, but they are there. We’re sure you can see them on any social media site you subscribe to. Unfortunately, in the non-stop screaming match that is Facebook/Reddit/Twitter/etc., the loudest, most idiotic voices on both sides are the ones that get the most attention. And maybe that’s part of it. We look at the most prominent, foolish proclamations from the Corona Doomsayers, and we start thinking that these people represent a huge contingent.
If that’s true, it’s a shame. It’s too bad that we’ve gotten to the point where anyone who expresses any concern at all for the crumbling economy is treated like some sort of anti-science lunatic. Because if there’s one big thing that the lockdown zealots are missing, it’s that isolation and unemployment bring their own kind of misery. According to one report, the national suicide hotline has seen a 900% increase in calls over this time last year. Mental illness is skyrocketing, and depression rates are soaring. And it’s not like those things were uncommon before the coronavirus outbreak.
They key to getting through this pandemic may lie in ignoring the extremists on both sides of the lockdown/open-it-up argument. We need a cautious, middle way, and we need to experiment with reopenings while ignoring the mockery and scorn coming from a small minority of panic-stricken doomsayers. We need to embrace the careful approach taken by, say, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, while also having the humility to admit it if, in two weeks or so, the state’s infections start to skyrocket out of control. If we stubbornly insist on politicizing every last aspect of this pandemic, we are going to make getting to the other side of this thing unnecessarily difficult.
It’s looking like COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while. If that’s true, we need a marathon approach to dealing with it. Right now, we’re doing the equivalent of an all-out sprint, and fatigue is already setting in. It’s time to slow it down to a jog.