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Minnich: Will wisdom prevail over politics in terms of when we return from the coronavirus shutdown?

It’s obvious to me at least that the single most critical difference between people is in their sense of time.

This is the kind of stuff that stirs in my head during times like these.

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Religion, politics, romance, how we measure happiness are all affected by how we measure time, both as individuals and as cultures.

Jews, Muslims, Christians all worship the same God, but the differences lie in the issues of beginnings and historical measurements of significant emphasis — the who, what, where and when of defined significant tenets of beliefs.

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In romance, it’s being in the right place at the right moment with that right person — but timing is everything. You’re ready or you’re not, and mistakes in calculation either way can make all the difference in the rest of your life.

Patience is a virtue until it costs an opportunity that may never again present itself. Striking when the opportunity seems right but isn’t can make you a loser, send you to jail, or bring disgrace and self-loathing.

To get to the point, let’s do the calculation on the question of when to end the quarantines and let people decide for themselves how much social distancing is necessary, or for how much longer, or whether it should be all in or in increments according to hot spots for the virus that dominates our lives.

And here we stir the political pot.

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There’s no good choice between absolutes. When do we end the stay-at-home policies as a means of preserving health and life? It’s possible to want to get back to work or find another job or even start over and at the same time care passionately about the fate of others. Most of us don’t want to choose between one or the other. We want both, in balance. But where is the balance?

We look to our leaders to make the right calculations and set a course.

We’d like to think that our elected leaders would weigh the facts and make ethical choices based on good information and moral courage.

In short, we want the proverbial wisdom of Solomon, and not the expediency of political calculations of Pilate.

Both Solomon and Pilate were under pressure to do the bidding of conflicted constituents. In both cases, the arguments had strong support from rational and traditional thinking. And in both cases, as in our situation today, the difficulty lies in the power of human compassion.

Solomon could have said the law is the law, and division of the child is lawful, so be it. Kind of like separating children from parents who tried to cross a border without the proper legal documents.

Pilate could have said justice is more important that the law and could have accepted responsibility for the consequences of the actions at hand. But he wavered and calculated. He blamed others and avoided making a choice that would have cost him politically.

Time was a factor; the issues were complicated by history and would affect the future of the world, but the choices had to made then and there.

What does the world need most: a healthy economy or a healthy population?

How much longer should we wait to make the determination that a tipping point, a balance, is at hand?

When?

The why of it all is mired in reflective rationale of past decisions and values: Mistakes in setting priorities, short-sighted planning, political considerations. As in why don’t we have the resources in reserves to combat a pandemic. It was the old guns or butter conundrum, and guns always have won.

Then we come to who makes the decisions. Do we have a Solomon in charge? Or a Pilate?

Dean Minnich is a retired newspaper editor and former county commissioner. His email address is dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

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