What About Bob?

Are we becoming a nation of Bobs? You remember the movie starring Bill Murray. It’s about a guy obsessed with therapy. He can’t function, because he sees everything, no matter how mundane, through the lens of his own psychosis. It’s funny. It’s really funny. Our psychosis is less amusing. We are a nation obsessed with politics, or maybe more accurately put “our own” politics. We have lost our ability to see anything beyond a purely scripted binary choice. We have lost the ability to consider that there might be common ground, or a way we can do things together. We have lost our ability to see the greater good, and there is nothing funny about it.

Worldwide the Covid pandemic is in dramatic decline. That is a scientific fact. In Nebraska our numbers are already at August levels. You remember back then. We were all still terribly afraid. There was little traffic on the streets. Restaurants and bars were largely dark. Churches were closed, and grocery stores were like a scene from a cheap sci-fi movie. Out of fear we remained isolated.

Then we got a few facts and many people decided they were done with isolation. They started to live their lives again, and the beast made us pay. The number of deaths and hospitalizations soared, but still many did not retreat again to isolation. Instead, they started to make a case that the economic, social and mental health costs were as grave or more grave than continued isolation. They began living their lives. Then it became a political thing, and it still is.

I do not have a side in this fight. Oh, maybe I do. I’m on the side of people who believe in science but can’t deny that there are other issues that need serious consideration. I focus on what’s really happening, as opposed to what the news and social media are telling me. They are saying that mask mandates and other more stringent protocols maybe necessary through December or even longer. They are saying that after all this time wearing two or even three masks might be necessary. And they are saying that only their science is science. That sounds to me a lot like what the Vatican told Galileo in the early 17th century. Only approved science is to be believed.

Barron’s magazine reported last week that J.P. Morgan analysists have reviewed the data, factored for the variants and every other issue that could cloud the statistics, and concluded the pandemic will effectively be over in 40 to 70 days. Marko Kolanovic, their chief of quantitative and derivative strategy, said, “the data is consistent and strong.” By the way, he is a scientist who got his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at New York University. Granted, J.P. Morgan’s focus is on worldwide finance and markets, and not health. Neither are they terribly concerned about the politics or the hype, but it’s been my experience that when people talk money they are a lot more careful than the average political speculator. Just saying…

Bringing this all home to Omaha, it seems prudent to me to start discussing a transition to normalcy. Now, don’t jump out the window. I am not advocating anything other than we need to start thinking and talking about what to do next. You know, be prepared. Our current mask mandate expires at the end of May. What if our numbers continue to plummet? If Dr. Kolanovic’s predictions are accurate, we might reach acceptable risk well before then. Once we get our teachers vaccinated, maybe we should begin transitioning our kids off masks. Science has determined they are at considerably less risk of transmission or serious illness than anyone else in our society.

Maybe there are other things we should consider in getting our lives back to normal. Maybe if we can focus on something that starts to bring us together instead of tearing us apart the world can look a little brighter again. Maybe this spring can bring more than just sunshine and warm temperatures. Maybe, just maybe, it can turn us into human beings again instead of political Charlie McCarthys.


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