Is it me or are the rules for reopening the country full of the most insane contradictions? And why, when we theoretically have the smartest minds in the country managing the reopening, are we living through this bizarre set of contradictions? Most importantly, have we lost the ability to think through a problem and apply sound rational logic in order to identify solutions that do and don’t make sense?

As I child, I always enjoyed the word play of oxymorons—horsefliesdeafening silencejumbo shrimpplastic glasses…and the sound of silence.

But the contradictions today are no laughing matter. They are taking an emotionally tense situation and stripping frightened, frustrated people of their ability to understand the contradictions. It’s a tinderbox waiting to blow.

Here are just a few examples posted on Instagram today…

  • If masks work, then why are we social distancing?
  • If social distancing works, then why are we wearing masks?
  • If masks and social distancing work, then why are our businesses closed?

There are other versions of these depending on the rules being set by the individual states…

  • If we can social distance and stand on a line at Costco and Walmart, then why can’t we do it at small private businesses?
  • If we can social distance and stand on a line at Costco and Walmart, then why can’t we do it to vote?

The list goes on and on. I am seriously frightened by the seemingly illogical decisions being made and the unreasonable rules in place for the millions of people who are emotionally and financially damaged and begging to return to their lives.

In California, you can go to the beach, but you can’t stop and sit. Beaches are open only for “active use”—jogging, walking, swimming, surfing, etc.

In Westport, Connecticut, you can sit on the beach, but you can’t use the grills. And you can no longer walk or jog on one of the most popular routes that goes around a golf course. Note to those in charge: If I’m jogging on a road, I’m alone. I’m not breathing on anyone but myself.

Meanwhile, some beaches in New York were open Memorial Day weekend—but not for swimming or picnicking. Do you sneeze and cough more while swimming? Not that I’ve ever seen.

Then there’s the issue of public restrooms. Many are closed to prevent the spread of germs—in case someone has a coughing fit while sitting on a toilet or standing next to you at the sink. Yet, filthy Porta Potties are available. We all know how to stand on a line and wait our turn for a stall or a sink. This is not intermission at a Broadway theater, where hundreds of people have 10 minutes to do their business. This is a continuous flow of people who need to relieve themselves, preferably in a “civilized” place.

The level of overthinking is impressive—but it is depressing that the powers that be are not applying sound rational intelligence to the likelihood of transmission. New details emerge daily about how experts overestimated the dangers of COVID and who and might be affected and how while underestimating the broader impact that the quarantine and lockdown has had on all of us.

Meanwhile remember when our kids thought that we were imposing unreasonable rules on them? Why do I have to go to bed at 8:00 when it’s not a school night? Why can’t I walk outside barefoot? Why can’t I watch television when I’ve done my homework and my grades are good? Far too often our answer was “because I said so.” Well, the “because I said so” rationale isn’t working, and feigning safety simply is not supported by these irrational regulations.

One of the most important things that we can teach our children is consequential thinking and basic problem-solving skills…

  • When faced with a challenge, state your goal. Reduce the spread of COVID-19, and “bend the curve” so that the health-care system can have a chance to catch up to facility needs and learn how this virus is operating.
  • Make a list of possible solutions.
  • Look at the pros and cons for each possible solution. How likely is that solution to work? Are there any risks? Any unintended consequences?
  • Then decide—after you have gathered all of your data, including the risks, rewards and likelihoods of each outcome.
  • Are your rules in support of the stated goal? Or have you wandered off strategy?

The pandemic and quarantine has seen a very long series of unintended consequences that are costing us far more than the problem itself both economically and from a health point of view. Increasingly, we are hearing about the significant number of deaths that are because of COVID-19 but not actually due to it—people who are not receiving treatments for cancer or heart problems…people who are forgoing screening tests because they are afraid that they will contract the virus that causes COVID-19. Add to that the increased rate of depression, which has historically been associated with higher all-cause mortality, increased use of drugs and alcohol, and increased suicides. 

People need to have control over their own lives. They need to live with a set of rules that makes sense. They need to have solutions. I heard a child behavioral expert say that one possible cause of suicide and severe depression is poor problem-solving skills.  They simply have no way out.

Many of the solutions that are being offered and the rules being imposed don’t make sense, and they are crushing our individual need to have power over our own lives and to be personally responsible for our destiny.

If we want a country of self-sufficient individuals, then we need to allow them to practice those skills. And we need to teach our youth the process of decision-making, risk-taking and dealing with consequences. Focusing on the risks of every move and every situation will only instill fear into our youth. Instead we need to help them understand that everything has risks and that they can avoid those risks by fully understanding the choices and preparing for the outcomes.

Every time we get in a car, ride a bicycle, play a sport, etc., we make those calculated choices. In the near future, we will be making choices to eat at restaurants…return to offices…send our children to camps…reopen schools. The data is increasingly available about who is at the most risk and who is not. And it is changing daily—even the CDC changed its warning last week about the risk of contracting COVID from germs on surfaces…it is implicated as the cause of COVID in far fewer cases than originally thought.

Educate yourself. And keep your eye on all your dreams—a return to life that is rich with social connection and engagement. We can achieve this with our newfound skills regarding hygiene and self-care and with decisions that respect our intelligence and abilities.

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.