The Civic Virtue of Social Distance

April 3, 2020 One of the great ironies of our present day is that the best way to embody public virtue is by committing to the discipline of privacy. That’s another way of saying how important “social distance” is. It’s also a hint at why it seems to be so hard here in the United States. We do not have a good track record when it comes to acting virtuously on behalf of the public good. I see it in small ways and in big ways. Groups of people walking too closely to one another on paths in the woods. School kids who are yucking it up with one another in close contact as if nothing has changed in terms of keeping apart. Families out shopping together in grocery stores instead of one person buying for all of them. The ease with which some men out for golf still stand next to each other on the tee, or share golf carts together – which raises the issue of why courses are open at all. Here’s another one, aired on a daily basis: Presidential news briefings where senior staffers (and, presumably, knowledgeable experts in epidemiology) are lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in a...Read more

Assisted living under pressure

March 31, 2020 My mother, 89, is one of many caught in the middle of this. She’s in an assisted living facility in New York City, a large group residence of folks generally elderly, frail, and unable fully to comprehend the scope and seriousness of what they face. Not that I fault them or her. Nobody can fully comprehend the extent of the threat posed by the Corona Virus. But it’s particularly stressful on those with limited physical capacity, who have entrusted their fates to professionals who, frankly, are in over their head. Three residents tested positive for the virus, I have been told. They have been evacuated. One of the staff workers also reported ill. We’re talking here about the low-paid service workers, most of whom I assume cannot afford to take a day off and who surely have trouble making ends meet even on a fulltime basis. The whole place is on lockdown, which means that residents are no longer congregating in the sitting rooms or sitting down en masse three times a day for their regular served meals. The meals are now delivered to each room. Folks eat alone inside, or in my mother’s case, share space...Read more