Right now there’s some really important conversation going on, and I am distressed that it is not being done well in many corners. There are three concerns: the spread of the virus, the destruction of the economy, and the deterioration of civil liberties. They are all huge, and how we navigate the current situation is going to be enormous for human well-being in the future.
We must work together and follow proper procedures to defeat this virus. It is only with the cooperation and sacrifices of all of us that this can be dealt with. We remember that our actions impact many other people we cannot see.
Poverty kills. We cannot keep food coming without an economy. We cannot keep our healthcare system going without an economy. When people bring up the economy, some will accused them of prioritizing money over human lives and being willing to kill people for their greed. Wait a minute here. Think of how we usually work. Can there be any doubt that if we made all cars so they couldn’t go faster than 25 miles per hour that would save lives? Think of how many terrible accidents would be avoided. It would inconvenience us and slowly reduce productivity, but it would save lives. Why haven’t people made the same case? Life does have some risk, and absolute security does not exist on this planet. We can have the discussion of how we balance the risks and the harms of the decisions involved. We don’t have to rule the discussion off limits.
If we are going to destroy someone’s life’s work, hope and dreams, and reduce them to poverty, they are going to want to ask if the particular rules that do it are necessary for our safety, or if they were just put together arbitrarily. When people think that rules are made that are inconsistent to the point of being capricious, that concern needs to be addressed. When someone says, “You are just being inconvenienced” they are demonstrating a lack of awareness and sensitivity. Some people are being inconvenienced. Some people’s lives are being destroyed.
I’m not a historian, but as I understand it, totalitarian governments often start during a crisis, and, of course take extraordinary steps to deal with it (so far so good). But then, there continue to be more and more authoritarian decisions that seem less and less necessary to deal with the crisis, but if you question them, you are immediately attacked for being unconcerned about the crisis and the well-being of the nation. It is the nature of human beings that people in power tend to think they should have more power. Our country was founded on limited government with checks and balances to keep this in check, and many countries that did not do this fell into totalitarianism. This was dramatized in George Orwell’s book Animal Farm. If it ever becomes out of bounds to challenge government practices, we are in dangerous territory.
That said, I cannot overemphasize the importance of being responsible when challenging. When people who are protesting details of the lockdown leave their cars and gather close together closely without masks, they are making their opponents’ case for them. When someone says, “If you are afraid you can stay inside, but don’t make everyone else do it.” They are not taking into account that they are affecting more than themselves and risking more than themselves. They are risking other people they come into contact with. We think of the people who work in grocery stores who can’t control who they come into contact with. We think of the health care workers who have been working long hours and who have not been seeing their families for fear of infecting them. These are unprecedented times, and strong action is called for, so it would be good to be careful about assuming the worst too easily about our elected officials.
How we deal with this time will have deep and lasting effects on our future. The conversations we have are essential to that. If we want others to take our concerns seriously, it would help to take their concerns seriously. If we want them to give our motives the benefit of the doubt, it would help to give their motives the benefit of the doubt. May charity rule our hearts.