stay shut down?

We should be open!

We need to stay closed!

Live free or die!

They’re so stupid!

And thus continue the rhetorical rants heard from Huntington Beach, California to Michigan’s capital city of Lansing to those of us who prefer the more comfortable, unchallengeable insulation behind our own social media keyboards. 

With great respect for individual passion, opinion and conviction, the issue is this:

How long can businesses stay closed and people stay home before we are doing more harm than good?

Please hear no passion nor persuasion in the above question; there is not. My desire is simply to frame the issue in such a way that we are each more likely to respect the passion, opinion, and conviction of the one who thinks differently than we. Like pretty much always, there are good people on all sides of the issue; there exist reasonable people who disagree. If we would only learn to be more reverent and gracious of the different, we would be a far wiser people. Notice I did not say “intelligent.” There are way too many intelligent people who have yet to pursue wisdom first.

Hence, back to our most timely question…

In our efforts to flatten the curve, contain the virus, and stop the spread, our federal and state governments have ordered life as we know it to cease. The goal is to reduce the strain on our healthcare system, knowing we do not yet have an effective solution or antibody to COVID-19.

Some businesses have been deemed essential; some have not; some have seemed questionably deemed essential; some have not. There’s a degree of subjectivity to it, but the reality is our state economies have been either shut down or grossly restricted in response to how the pandemic is playing out. The challenge is that our lives are not only affected by how the pandemic plays out but also from economic activity. A shut down economy affects lives.

Some businesses may never reopen. Some professional livelihoods will never be renewed. Many may never recover. And the impact of the shut down and sheltering on our individual mental health is already being reported as exponential… unemployment, isolation, loss of income, anxiety, trauma, death of a loved one, etc. Psychology Today ran a recent editorial pondering the extent of exactly that: “Will COVID-19 make the suicide crisis worse?”

The point is, friends, that there is a cost to staying open.

And there is a cost to staying shut.

Let us thus resist those who desire to pare the problem down to a false, binary choice of choosing people or profit. We are choosing people. We simply recognize there is a cost to whatever we choose.

Ideally, we could navigate toward solution in a way that omits the denigration and disrespect found in far more than California, Michigan, or on our keyboards. This is not an easy problem to solve.

My sense is we should start by treating this challenge similarly to how we approach gun control. Stay with me here…

One of the challenges with the gun control issue is that due to respected passion, opinion, and conviction, many seemingly shout from the rooftops of what the plan needs to be for all of us… ie. No more thoughts and prayers — get rid of the guns!…or… Be afraid — they want to confiscate our guns! Our chosen approach is prompted from such honorable passion.

But the prudent reality is what’s wise for the crammed and crowded megacities is different than what’s wise for Montana’s spacious “Big Sky Country.” One size does not fit all. One approach does not fit all either. 

Hence, it makes sense for different states, different cities, and different municipalities to do different things. May we respect that first, knowing this is challenging for us all.