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Column: Arguments about reopening Georgia creating more heat than light
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

There are some passionate opinions about Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow some businesses to reopen.

You’ve seen some thoughts about that on the Opinion pages of this newspaper, both in letters to the editor from readers as well as in editorials from our editorial board.

Passionate opinions show that we care. We care about the livelihood of our families and friends and community. We care about having the freedom to make our own decisions about what’s best for ourselves. And we care about the lives of our families and friends and community. We care about protecting heath care workers and others who must care for those who contract COVID-19. At this moment, it seems you can care only about safety or freedom.

The dichotomy between safety and freedom isn’t new, but it’s never been tested on a national scale quite like this.

What seems to get lost in the arguments about why everyone should stay home or why we must go back to work is that none of us want to see lives lost or the economy fall apart.

I don’t want to see lives lost or the economy fall apart. Of course, both have already happened — it’s a matter of how much worse it could get in either sphere.

What I’m really tired of seeing, though, is the arguments.

At the start of this pandemic, I created a Facebook group where I thought people could share information, have important dialogue and band together to fight this virus and its effects. Misinformation was spreading rapidly, and this platform provided a place for those seeking to understand this pandemic.

I watched, encouraged, as people shared about needs like face masks and others quickly pitched in. I also watched, dismayed, as people got into squabbles better left to the elementary school playground.

It’s been an interesting experiment.

The loudest voices took the group in one direction, and I wondered where the counterbalance was. When some with other opinions showed up, I was glad to have additional perspectives. Facebook can easily become an echo chamber, and it’s important to hear from all sides. 

I can say that at this point I’ve been disappointed with those from all sides of the various debates. And yes, I’m still encouraged by some who share good information and ask important questions.

The need for accurate information was there before this pandemic hit. But it’s never been tested quite like this.

I’ve watched people struggle to understand changing data, share conspiracy theories and discount the press for asking important questions.

It’s difficult to understand a novel coronavirus. This is unlike anything we’ve seen. And many of us don’t know where to turn to truly understand the virus and its effects, because where information beforehand was limited by context and sometimes bias, it’s now also limited by the fact that we’re all learning about this as we go. It’s hard to keep up with the vast amount of information that is out there and changing all the time as we learn more. And the vast amount of information we don’t know is still unsettling.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, having the right questions may be more important than the right answers. We can ask whether we should reopen businesses and spend a lot of time arguing points we’ve argued for the better part of the past few weeks. Or we could potentially move the conversation forward by asking when should we reopen businesses? How should it be done? Those aren’t yes or no questions. Answering them might require more research and thought.

Here’s another question: Why does the person you’re arguing with have such a strong opinion? Perhaps she hasn’t gotten her unemployment check yet and isn’t sure how she’s going to afford rent? Maybe she’s a business owner concerned about her employees. Perhaps he knows someone working on the COVID-19 floor at the hospital. Maybe he has a loved one cooped up in an assisted living facility with COVID-19. 

Fighting for what you believe can be great. Belittling others doing the same is not.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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