Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker. Maybe it’s my political leanings. Maybe it’s due to a deep and longstanding distaste for short-sighted selfishness. But, until recently, it has been easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys in the coronavirus lockdown. The teams were clearly drawn.
Led by the incredible bravery and sacrifice of front-line health care workers, anyone who adhered to the science and followed the stay-at-home mandates were the good guys. Those who flouted the rules, disregarded social distancing, failed to wear masks in public places and chafed at not being allowed to go to clubs or ball games were bad.
This divide was underscored and accentuated by ridiculous claims emanating from the White House—a Pollyannaish view of reality where wishful thinking trumped facts and exaggerated claims were made daily about the terrific job being done by the administration. Meanwhile, testing remained an unmet promise, a coordinated distribution strategy for essential medical supplies was AWOL and rose garden press conferences continued to castigate reporters and blame the Obama administration for failures that should all too obviously be laid at the feet of the Trump administration.
But now, as the economy opens up—as it inevitably must—how the “sides” are determined is no longer quite so clear. How much freedom do we allow ourselves before we are reckless or selfish? Can we visit our favorite restaurant if the owners “cheat” just a little on social distancing to squeeze in more tables to ward off bankruptcy? Do we look the other way and push the envelope just a little further so football season can open on time? Do we permanently change our lifestyles so our air stays cleaner? Do we not schedule family reunions to maintain social distancing? Reduce our consumption of meat? Avoid crowded elevators? Eliminate that vacation to Europe so we don’t have to fly? Should we support actors by going to the theatre? Hotel operators by taking a brief weekend away? Now that they are no longer ignored, do we organize unions for essential workers?
Of course, it’s all a matter of degree. But one thing is clear: as we exit from the pandemic lockdown, there will be no “sides.” We are—in the words of so many—truly all in this together. As we engage a post-covid universe, we will be challenged to consider how we measure both personal and corporate patterns and how we prepare for the next round of this nightmare. Each of us will need to measure our actions against the greater good for our families, our communities, our nation and the whole world. It will be a fine balancing act. Many rules are yet to be written; many results still to be decided. How we chart our course through these next several months will go a long way toward whether we succeed or fail and measuring what we’ve learned from our struggle with Covid-19.