Let’s stop talking about finding the “new normal.” I first heard this term when I was unexpectedly widowed 10 years ago. When your life is turned inside out and upside down, there is absolutely no way to consider that anything will be normal again — new, old or just slightly wrinkled. There are days when getting up and putting one foot in front of the other is all you can expect.

A pandemic event can have the same inside-out-and-upside-down effect on our lives, and we struggle to figure out how we will move forward. But then there are days when you see a parade of cars driving down your street to celebrate a birthday. There are those moments of a family learning to eat meals together again and to connect on an intimate level. There are those times when online church becomes the lifeline to hope and faith that you were always seeking. Let’s face it, folks. There is no such thing as “new normal” — there is just life. And it’s time we embrace it and live it as fully as we can. We do not know the measure of our days, but we do know that life is worth living. As Dr. Ian Malcolm (the Dr. Anthony Fauci of “Jurassic Park”) said, “Life finds a way.”

C.J. Floyd, Hopkins

• • •

“Eventually, the economy will return to normal.” “Sooner or later, things will go back to normal.”

I see and hear this everywhere, yet there seems to be no discussion of what, exactly, “normal” entails.

Many people are experiencing anxiety and fear. “Will I have a job?” “What if I have to choose between rent and food?” “I hate having to keep a sharp eye on everyone so they don’t get too close.” “If I get sick, I can’t afford to see a doctor.”

What no one seems to be acknowledging is that this state of uncertainty, fear, anxiety and stress is how many of our fellow citizens are forced to live in a “normal economy” or “normal times.” It’s unpleasant, isn’t it? Frightening when the dollars run out before the need does. Scary when you have to go to work because you’re “essential,” knowing you run the risk of getting sick and not being able to afford a clinic visit or, heaven forbid, time off. And it’s paralyzing to be staring eviction in the face with no way out, no help. It’s much, much more “normal” than many of the people pining for normality can possibly imagine. Ask any woman in your life if “paying attention to where people are so they don’t get too close” is necessary just during a crisis, or always.

So if you’re longing for a “return to normal,” try to have enough empathy to recognize that many of your neighbors live under these trying conditions all the time. Ask yourself what this kind of stress, not just for a month, but always, would do to your quality of life. Maybe, just maybe, this crisis will open enough eyes that we as a society address this reality.

Things should not “go back to normal.” We need a new, better “normal.”

Mike Westberg, St. Paul


More to be done beyond new bill

It was heartening to read Liz Sawyer’s April 14 article covering the bipartisan bill progressing through our Legislature that will standardize the handling of our sexual assault kits moving forward (“Rape kit measure pushed”). Kudos to Rep. Marion O’Neill and her colleagues. It is wonderful to see the swell of support evident from citizens, as well as our elected and appointed officials. I am hopeful that our culture is bending toward treating victim/survivors as we would choose to be treated.

I was, however, surprised by the sentence in the second paragraph stating that the draft proposal does not include the mandate to test old kits. Please let us not forget those many kits languishing for decades. Some money has been collected through grant applications and private donations but not nearly enough — far less than half of what is required. I implore all those working for us in the Capitol to complete this work. It is estimated that 3% to 5% of backlog testing identifies a serial rapist, and surely this is the very epitome of preventive public health: Identify and prosecute.

Constance Pries, Minneapolis


We put a price on life all the time

The columns of recent weeks on opening the economy and the responses they attract seem to reflect the political polarization of the country. Anyone who suggests that more effort should be put into opening the economy is viewed as disrespecting human life, just plain greedy, or worse yet as Trumpsters by the left. Those who support a long-term closure of the economy are viewed as naive to the risks to the economy, endangering our way of life and are seen as merely weeping liberals by the right. As someone who is in the risk category in terms of age and who has voted and financially supported the Democratic Party for years, I nevertheless applaud D.J. Tice’s column on reopening the economy as a useful way to approach middle ground (“Is the anti-viral economic medicine we’re taking safe?” April 17).

As a society, we already make a cost-benefit analysis on certain choices. For instance, we are willing to tolerate 38,000 deaths and millions of injuries a year from automobile use in order to enjoy the benefit of convenience. More controversially, there are 480,000 deaths per year from smoking with 41,000 of those from secondhand smoke, and yet we don’t outlaw smoking. There are 39,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries from guns each year, and politicians evidently make the cost-benefit analysis that the harm to their political careers outweighs the benefit of taking strong action to reduce these numbers.

I recognize that cost-benefit analysis in these argumentative times, when estimates of potential harm vary by whatever model you use, will be very difficult. However, those who are entrusted with making decisions going forward should recognize that Americans already have made, and live with, choices that endanger thousands of lives every day.

Mark M. Nolan, Bloomington

• • •

We are having trouble with this pandemic because we do not want to sacrifice the few for the good of the many. Otherwise we could let it run its course, lose the elderly and a percentage of the rest of the population and be done with it.

It is because we intuitively value each human life.

Where does that view come from? Those who believe in karma would not want to interfere, because each individual must follow the pathway determined by previous choices. Those who believe in fate do not think anything can make a difference. Those who believe in survival of the fittest will be thankful for this opportunity to let natural selection eliminate the unfit.

The only worldview consistent with the cry of our hearts is that human life is given value by our creator.

Ross S. Olson, Richfield

• • •

It’s ironic that those making decisions for extended stay-at-home orders are all employed. What about the rest of us with reduced hours or who were recently laid off? The scars unseen by authorities are the ones that hurt the most.

Charles Corcoran, Stillwater



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