I’ve seen a few versions of social-media posts recently along these lines: “I don’t want to go back to normal, because normal was the problem.”
I can’t agree. Normal was pretty great, so I look forward to it returning.
I’ll concede a few obvious things. Clearly the worldwide lockdown of the past month has helped the environment. Air quality is dramatically improved, according to what I’ve read, although in our part of the world it was good already. (And the problem of pasture burning didn’t get any better because of the lockdown.) Staying at home also reduces the stress of running hither and yon for work, kids’ events, and errands. Slowing down has encouraged long family dinners, and substantive talks, and reflection.
All good. I hope this can teach people how to get things accomplished without as much driving around. I hope we’ll remain connected in ways that the lockdown has created.
But the government restrictions have also resulted in a dramatic spike in unemployment, and an economic collapse from which we won’t recover for years.
I also miss seeing people. I miss work colleagues, and the people I randomly bump into at the grocery store, unmasked. I miss sitting in the stands at kids’ sports events. I miss seeing friends, although because of my job I don’t actually have any, just people who like my wife. I miss big communal events -- K-State football games and Springsteen concerts come to mind -- where the sense of a shared experience can make you levitate. I miss the innocent notion that a high-five is not a viral vector.
Those things will return, minus the innocence. I know that.
I also know that pining for those missing things is not particularly productive at this moment, since clearly we need to continue to isolate ourselves. There’s no cure for the virus, and not enough testing. Businesses are going to reopen gradually, and we might have to hunker down again if the virus spikes up again. Which it almost certainly will.
But eventually, we’ll get back to normal.
And yes, normal will be good. Normal is not the problem. Not even close.
The problem is that there’s a deadly virus, and the lockdown is an attempt to keep people from getting sick and dying. The lockdown is not an attempt to change the world; people who say that “normal was the problem” make me suspect that their real interest is in changing the world, and therefore can’t really be relied upon for rational decisions based on science.
I’ve dutifully gone along with the lockdown, and strongly encouraged complying with it in this space, because I think it is important to protect the vulnerable and keep from overwhelming our health-care system. I think we have generally done a good job at that. We won’t be entirely done until there’s a vaccine. But then it’s done, and we get to go back to normal.
When that moment comes, save a high-five for me.