Judy Mahoskey: Playing a serious game of Would You Rather?

A man holds a flag as he attends a rally to protest stay-at-home orders put into place due to the COVID-19 outbreak Tuesday, April 21, 2020, outside the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. Several hundred gathered to protest the restrictions and urge the reopening of businesses closed in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus . (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

I can remember giggling the nights away during sleepovers with my girlfriends as we played the nonsensical game of Would You Rather?

Would you rather kiss a boy or eat a worm? (Eeew! Neither one! But if I had to choose I’d eat the worm!) Would you rather have a big hairy wart on the tip of your nose or spend the rest of your life with no eyebrow over your right eye? (Um, I guess I’d wear bangs forevermore).

Nowadays the game has become a serious dilemma as, globally, we have to choose between two horrifically difficult outcomes: Do we choose to restrict the spread of a frightening pandemic while giving up our jobs, routines and community contacts? Or do we risk spreading a lethal virus in order to restart the economy in hopes of maintaining the lives we’ve worked so hard to achieve?

Personally, I don’t like either option.

For the protesters who’ve had enough of social distancing while their businesses and livelihoods slide gradually into bankruptcy, the idea of Depression-era food lines and the possibility of becoming homeless keep them up at night. They’re listening to seasoned economists who cannot honestly forecast a healthy economy if COVID-19 disrupts our normal lives for much longer.

On the other hand, for those who fear hospital and morgue overruns, temporary mass graves and having to say goodbye to loved ones via Zoom or Facetime, there’s no question about whether or not a longer lockdown is appropriate.

Neither option is tolerable. And yet here we are.

The divide between the two groups is growing more volatile by the minute. I’m no doctor or epidemiologist, and I’m certainly no economist, but I do have a few ideas about what is essential moving forward:

• Listen to experts who’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand the complexities of their fields. Politicians and news pundits have their ideas, but, ultimately, it’s the experts whose knowledge we should seek.

Protestors should practice social distancing and responsible community interactions, realizing that medical experts have deemed this a global pandemic with serious consequences. It’s not a political ploy that countries worldwide have conspired to commit in order to weaken a Republican president! At the same time, shelterers must protect themselves, support local businesses, grocery workers, first responders and other public servants as much as possible, and recognize that peaceful protest is, indeed, something that distinguishes Americans from many others across the globe.

• Remember our humanity. We all have different backgrounds and experiences that converge to formulate our current opinions. Respect that. The other side isn’t idiotic. They just see things differently. None of us can predict the future with real certainty. Having honest, open dialogue will bring us closer together than angry name-calling and threats will. Find a variety of news sources to get a well-rounded taste of the patterns of thought out there. Be open to learning something new.

• Use this moment to choose to be your best selves. It’s difficult to be kind and calm when the rug is pulled out from under you. But we’re here in this moment, together.

I seriously doubt policy makers and the majority of protesters have no compassion for human life, and I don’t think those supporting sheltering are unconcerned about the economy. We’re all just scared.

Whatever comes, I, for one, will be relying on compassion and love to see me through it. That’s what’s at the core of humanity. Let’s tap into it and respect one another and the legitimate concerns we all have for our lives going forward.

Judy Mahoskey

Judy Mahoskey, Murray, is a retired public educator who picked up a second career as a part-time instructor for Salt Lake County’s Criminal Justice Services, until COVID-19 led to her recent furlough.