We can admit to ourselves and to one another, without fear of contradiction, that nobody knows the perfect way of reopening American life.
We're going to make mistakes and miscalculations, no matter our schedule or plan. What kind of mistakes and miscalculations? Haven't a clue. We just know it's that kind of show.
The need of the hour, all the same, is committing to make those mistakes in a spirit of good judgment and common sense -- rarities in today's public discourse.
Those in charge of our affairs need to work with and patiently listen to those whom Lyndon B. Johnson, during Vietnam, dubbed the "nervous Nellies," those timid as to missteps that could lead to additional deaths. They could be right. But their fears and convictions march alongside equally urgent convictions as to the cost of standing more or less pat, with N95 masks over our faces.
American life itself is semi-comatose, the consequence of mass closures and layoffs and governmental ukases and no-go orders. Do this; don't do that. It's half of what we hear these days.
American life, construed in its widest sense as spirit and energy, can't take much more of this, not without profound injury to our prospects as ... as America itself.
We're sick of life viewed through the living room window. We're sick of being prohibited from, or, worse, personally warned away from, the doorsteps of loved ones or friends on whom we depend.
We know these instances of deprivation derive from genuine, verifiable fears. We can't have sick people sickening the unsick. Thus, for weeks, a nation whose earliest pastimes included dodging arrows and procuring potable water from creeks has subsided into inactivity and mental confusion, interrupted by congressional pledges of federal money.
America of the impeachment era, the era to climb aboard the socialist bandwagon or lay out billions of bucks on slavery reparations -- this painfully recent America was not without, shall we say, its quota of shortcomings. However, observe what joys replaced it, such as the worst economic crisis since stockbrokers jumped out of windows and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" became the unofficial national anthem. We're writing government checks to all and sundry and extending forgivable loans to small businesses. Etc., etc.
Nobody knows where it's all going, there being just one way to find out: offer employment to the common sense and enterprising spirit of the American people.
That makes it sound easy? Of course it does. There has to be general agreement that, slowly, we must lift the no-go restrictions, which contradict the nature of a free society. "Get us out of this!" should become our national watchword.
You're already hearing the conversation turn to the recovery phase of our ordeal: the job of putting the country back to work, reopening and filling restaurants and sports stadiums, and, at the same time, curing and healing, preventing spread of the pestilence that walketh in darkness. No one knows exactly how to do it, or where lies the authority to do it. The main point is to try things before fear and anxiety, in contrast with hardihood and adventurousness, become our national attributes, and we turn into a different kind of society: continually glancing over its shoulder, fearful of adversity.
This is a signal moment in American life. Either we put the masks aside, symbolically as well as in reality, or we go -- again symbolically -- into hiding, with the government checking our cellphones to see where we are and what our temperatures show.
I move that we start to think hard about such things. Health is of two kinds -- physical and emotional/spiritual. Our job as a free society is to seek and guarantee both kinds.
Well, isn't it? And if not, where does that leave us? In no place very livable, I suggest.