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As any parent knows, grounding an acting-out adolescent is punishment for the parent.  This is an extreme action to take, and the parent is equally grounded – s/he has to provide some basic supervision, hear the doors slam, shouts of “it’s so unfair,” loud music, tears.  America’s governors know what I am talking about.

I happened to give myself a time-out during my sons’ middle childhood, and was delighted by the chastened response.  I was so angry over whatever the issue/argument was, that I said, “I’m going to my room.  I’m giving myself a time-out.  I don’t want to be disturbed.” 

The children were surprised and concerned.  It was quiet.  A few minutes later, I heard a quiet “Mom, are you okay?” from the other side of the door.  Putting myself in timeout became my go-to break.

It’s hard to think of a policy parallel.  I wish that actions and consequences had a clear, one-to-one linear connection related to The Virus.  But the problem is, the consequences are hardest for the most vulnerable who may be far distant from the offending event.  You want to get together, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a bar?  Drink lots of alcohol and lose inhibitions?  Be my guest, the Darwinian social scientist wishes.  But alas, those beer chuggers may go visit their aging parents or spend time in a store next to someone with an immune-compromised spouse at home.  Unfair consequences.

A friend and I who have carefully started to see each other at a six-foot distance in a park, refer to those we would see as “observant.”  Careful people. 

Oh, I understand the itch to let it all loose.  I’m not sure how I would behave if I were in my 20’s; all this talk of social distancing, and masks, and who have you been with reminds me—maybe all of us—of the lectures about safe sex.  Does one wear a mask and a condom, these days?

We can get all twisted up about moral righteousness and political appropriation of the strangest totems, but really I think it is all reaction to our earliest power struggles, the ones exerting our own will, however stupid, and parental boundaries, however well-intended.


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