When what-if becomes what-now
2 min read

When what-if becomes what-now

As the pandemic expands, I'm worrying less about how rich, safe people react. Instead, I'm thinking about poor and desperate people -- and the choices they make when they think they have no choices left.

A month ago -- ancient history in the age of quarantine -- I wrote a bit about how our rich, safe society could face unique challenges adjusting to COVID-19.

Now, I'm now worrying less about how rich, safe people react. Instead, I'm thinking about poor and desperate people -- and the choices they make when they think they have no choices left.

Clearly, the virus is serious -- I spent too many nights listening to Grace's pneumonia-labored breathing and cutting deals with God to deny that.

But the COVID-19 story, for most people, is a what-if story: What if I catch it? What if someone I love catches it?

It's fear as a prophylactic. The virus is the monster in the closet that probably won't get you, but why take chances?

That's our now. But four, six or eight weeks out? I worry these fears will be replaced by more exigent circumstances: Fear of being able to feed one's family. Fear of having a car to drive or a roof over your head.

The kind of fear that sets in when your job ended with a lockdown that became a bankruptcy that became a national or global depression.

Those aren't stay-home-and-worry fears. They're not what-if fears. They're take-to-the-streets fears.

And if you doubt it, ask yourself what you'd do if your very survival or that of your loved ones meant action -- sanctioned by law or not. Ask yourself why your neighbors would be any different.

None of this is baked in the cake just yet, of course. And maybe, against all logic, the economy really can be flipped off and on again like a giant light bulb.

But I have my doubts and worry that the decisions made in the spirit of what-if may eventually bite us in the ass with what-now.