People would be surprised to know this about the novel coronavirus: People can have differing opinions about the costs of “stay at home” orders without actually having malice toward their neighbors, without being consumed by greed, and without being a “sheep” who wants government to micromanage every aspect of everyone’s life. You would not know this from your social media feed, but it is true.
For the pro-lockdown people: Those who oppose the lockdown or want to end it sooner than you think wise are not willing to sacrifice the elderly or those with risk factors to get a haircut or gain a little bit of money in their stock portfolios. They have a different opinion than you do on the dangers of the virus and the harm of locking gown the economy.
Would you like it if someone said you are a white supremacist who does not care if tens of millions of black people die in Africa because an economic recession caused mass starvation in developing nations?
For the anti-lockdown people: No, the people wearing masks are not “virtue signaling,” and the people who favor a longer lockdown are not “cowards” who are overly submissive to the state or people who want a Communist dictatorship stripping of us of our freedom. They do not have a cavalier attitude about people dying “deaths of despair,” and they are not uncaring about people’s suffering. They have a different opinion than you do about the need to keep people at home to slow the spread of the virus.
Can we please have just a little bit of charity instead of assuming that anyone who disagrees with us has some sort of nefarious motive or is a sociopath? Because here’s the actual truth: We all want the same thing. We all want to save as many people from the virus as possible. We all want to minimize the economic damage caused by the lockdowns as much as possible. The messy thing about public policy is how we get there.
Yes, you can point to wackos. Nut-picking is extremely easy, but you are missing the forest to examine the bark on a few twigs. Most people are not extremists, and the extremes do not represent the broad swaths of American opinion on “stay at home” orders and lifting the lockdowns.
Finally, let’s recognize something else regarding the debate over lockdowns: There are ways in which both sides are right, and there are ways in which both sides are wrong. No one has all the answers and no one has a perfect policy. There are going to be costs and benefits to any policy we take, and our policy on this – both locking down and opening up – will result in people dying. That is the reality we are facing. Let’s assume good motives, while we disagree on policy.