Where Has All the COMMON SENSE Gone?

COVID-19, Health & Wellness, Relationships


Two of the many things I vividly remember about my grandfather, a product of the Greatest Generation and a 25 year veteran of the U.S. postal service, was to 1) constantly correct me when I said “you know, you know” (his retort: “…you know, you know…I DON’T KNOW”) and to teach me about common sense when I would do something stupid (not a rare occurrence) using his favorite expression…”why don’t you use a little common sense?”. There is no doubt that the Greatest Generation had a great deal of common sense to continue to build and lead this country.

I was reminded about “common sense” recently following a conversation I had with one of Baltimore’s most beloved pastors, Bishop Marcus Johnson, Sr. As we discussed the continued spike of COVID-19 in many states across the country, I asked “Isn’t it just simple common sense to wear a facemask and keep social distance?” His tongue in cheek response was “maybe common sense isn’t so common anymore!”

What has happened to common sense in our society? My grandfather was a great storyteller and had a lot of common sense. If he and many others of the Greatest Generation were alive today, they would have taught us the importance of using common sense to combat this pandemic. Since they are not, I will at least try to represent how I believe my grandfather would have responded to some ludicrous comments and continued disregard by some to use proper precautions in order to slow the spread of this potentially lethal virus.

First, the Greatest Generation would have had no problems wearing a face mask and socially distance, especially after many had experienced the 1917-1918 Influenza pandemic, a time when common sense prevailed. Yet, a Sheriff of Marion County, Florida recently ordered his Deputies NOT TO WEAR MASKS! His reasoning was: “it would be better if officers’ voices were not muffled behind masks and that citizens’ faces were not obscured.” I can hear my grandfather state the obvious: “Sheriff, if you are so worried about watching the words come out of the mouth of the Deputy or citizen, why don’t you provide them with clear face masks?”

But how would my grandfather have responded to large gatherings that disregard social distancing or face coverings, including “COVID parties“? Well, he loved to sell his stories through pictures, and it would not have been surprising if he had asked my brothers and me to think of COVID as “leprosy inside our body”. When many of us think of leprosy, we think of skin disfigurement, loss of digits, etc. But if we now visualize COVID as “leprosy inside our body” this virus would be viewed through a very different lens….after all, would anyone ever consider attending a party where they might catch leprosy? I could also envision his pinball analogy for why the virus loves to invade humans the closer we are to each other; just like more points are obtained as pinballs bounce off bumpers, the virus can more easily “bounce off” and invade people who are close to each other. The farther away (greater than 6 feet) the less likely that the virus sustain its reach and energy level.

My grandfather also taught me that listening to and heeding the advice of experts is common sense. In fact, my colleague, Dr. Robert Redfield, whom I had the pleasure of interacting with when he was Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine prior to becoming Director of the CDC, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of social distancing and face protection. Why would you not listen to experts such as Redfield, Fauci, and Birx who have made significant contributions and have devoted their careers to this field?

To continue not to take this virus seriously is hard to understand as we continue to lose friends, colleagues, loved ones and heroes on the front line. This was the case of Jeff S., a paramedic who was passionate about helping others. Several weeks ago, Jeff was called in to resuscitate a Police Office who was suffering from COVID. Jeff knew that the officer had COVID and despite wearing protective gear, contracted the virus and passed away earlier this week. Even first responder heroes need to ensure that their protective equipment, including N95 masks remain tightly sealed at all times, including active resuscitation efforts.

Perhaps, Pete Seeger’s classic song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” says it best in its final lines…”when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn“?

Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology & Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA.  He is the author of more than 200 original scientific publications and 3 books. His most recent book is  “Heal Your Heart published by Penguin Random House.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s