Aristotle established the concept of the Golden Mean 2,500 years ago. Simply put, the middle path—or moderation—is the correct choice for right behavior and making good decisions. During this pandemic, we Americans are choosing between extreme options and moderate ones. On one side of the continuum is an extreme option: shutting down the economy, curtailing most social interaction, and maintaining maximum isolation. These steps are necessary in some places, but not in others. The other extreme is doing nothing, and carrying on as if the coronavirus were not real.
The moderate option is social distancing, frequent, systematic testing and monitoring, and wearing masks or face shields. All of these measures could be enhanced or relaxed as required. Businesses could modify how they service their clientele, or find ways for employees to tele-work. With the moderate choice, schools could turn to remote learning while they develop pedagogy for virtual education and create flexible, blended models that could adapt to the virus threat.
The problem is that, if you choose one option and I choose the other, neither of us wins. If you dismiss even modest precautions, eventually you will get sick and/or infect someone else. Soon there will be no middle ground. Then the only choice will be to adopt the extreme position: total shutdown. Too many Americans have squandered their options, acting crazy brave instead of heroically, so we all may have to pay the price for their disregard of Aristotle’s Golden Mean.