The Newnan Times-Herald


On being trapped in the present

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Mar. 30, 2020 - 10:00 AM

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There’s no time like the present. At the moment, that’s all we have.

When the world changes as drastically as it has, we are all trapped in the present. Many who had steady and stable jobs or thriving businesses just weeks ago are filled with doubt and uncertainty about the future. Students who were looking forward to proms and graduation exercises are now trying to find normalcy with school work via video and/or email.

Our present is somewhere between an extended snow day and Bill Murry’s Groundhog Day. So much of what we were certain of and what we were able to do yesterday is gone, at least for the moment. So many of our future plans are in doubt.

We as individuals are generally resistant to change. When we are all forced to do so at the same time, individual anxieties are multiplied into a collective panic.

We must give a nod to the equal and opposite anxieties we are facing right now, with one group disproportionately louder than the other. As is custom, those with time on their hands are making noise. It’s the quiet ones we need to be worried about.

For many if not most of us, the change has been that we’re now working or learning from home. We’ve eliminated our commutes. While anxieties about our health and finances are real, for many of us our immediate problem is boredom. In the grand scheme of things, this is a wonderful “first world” problem to have.

Right now, there are many that have neither time nor energy to complain on Facebook. The list starts with our front line health care professionals, who are not only risking their own health and lives daily, but are working ridiculous hours under amazingly stressful conditions. We need to be keenly aware and prayerful for not only their physical health, but their mental health as well.

This list extends to those who continue to work every day – many in direct customer contact positions – because their jobs are deemed “essential”. I’ve seen many of the safe at home, loudly bored demand to know why we can’t just shut everything down for a month or longer. These people will still expect all of their utilities to work, groceries to be delivered or available, and even restaurants to have workers preparing take-out orders for them.

Too many of us have become so insulated from our own personal supply chains that we no longer see the farmers that grow our food, the truckers that bring it to market, nor the many other hands that provide the food, shelter, power, and water. Many of the same are questioning the government response, without acknowledging that government workers at every level are supplying services with much higher demand than normal.

It remains impossible to shut everything down to save every life from Covid-19, just as we wouldn’t shut down our interstates and state highways to eliminate traffic deaths. On the flip side, we have speed limits and other traffic laws for a reason. Where we find that middle ground for pandemic response will be the subject of debate years after we’ve moved on to the next big problem.

The first time I was invited to be a live guest on television was near the end of a major snow and ice event. I was arguing that while the situation was serious, the sun was eventually going to come out. The ice was going to melt, and that if we would all just stay home for a couple of more days, most of us would barely remember these events in a couple of months when it would again be 72 degrees and sunny.

A pandemic is certainly more serious than an extended snow event, even an extended icing in the south. This snow too, however, will melt.

We will have new challenges that must be faced as soon as we can move on. These include re-opening large sections of our economy, addressing our national energy policy in the wake of Russia and Saudi Arabia’s war on the U.S. petroleum industry, and a shortage of health care workers to address our aging population.

Until we’re able to move on, we should probably spend less time complaining about our free time, and find more ways to help those helping us now. They’re essential, and taking care of them needs to be as well.


Charlie Harper, a Fayette County native, is the publisher of and the executive director of PolicyBEST, an Atlanta-based pro-business advocacy group.