Must be present to win – we’re reopening: why now?

August 18, 2020

Good evening, everyone.

Way back in May, when our governmental leaders were ignoring the advice of public health scientists and issuing a conflicting cluster of recommendations (and the occasional regulation) on how to reopen businesses and the economy, I realized that we’d need to rely on our own metrics for when to reopen.  I published this as the Barrister Bounce Back Plan, and amended it a couple of times as new data and evidence came in.    Later this week, we’ll be reopening for limited in-person shopping and dining.  That’s the top-line news, and we published the particulars in a more-streamlined fashion here.  This post is about why, or why now.

Before I continue, I have two requests for you.

  1. Everyone, go to and make sure you are counted in this decennial census.  It is in the constitution, and it helps your community.  If you’ve already completed your census, fantastic and thank you!  You can skip this step.
  2. If you are eligible to vote, visit and check that your voter registration is correct.  If you are eligible but not registered to vote at your current address, register now.  Then request an absentee ballot.  When that ballot arrives, read the instructions three times (seriously, they can be unclear – three times) and vote.  Early.  Because of the degradation in service currently being inflicted on the Postal Service, I’ll be taking my ballot directly to my municipal clerk instead of mailing it back.  If you must or choose to mail your ballot back, get it in the mail early.  Like October 10th early.  If you respect my judgement at all, know that I am voting for Joe Biden and I ask that you also vote for Joe Biden.  If you absolutely must cast a protest vote for Jo Jorgensen, remember the 2000 election (or look it up, if you’re young enough), think about it three times, and if that remains your conclusion… donate money to them, then vote for Joe Biden.  We’re in Wisconsin, it matters.  Remember 2000.  And if you are contemplating voting for Trump, thank you for voting – it is super important.  You are then probably old enough to recall, for example, what Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela or Abdel Fattah el-Sisi did in Egypt more recently – or Alexander Lukashenko has just done in Belarus.  Consider how the actions of our president these past months have echoed what we’ve seen happen elsewhere in the world, even in these recent examples.  Consider if an America where these actions are accepted by us – We, the People – whether this is an America you wish to pass on to the next generation.  Or, if you are contemplating voting for Trump because “he’ll keep the blacks down and the Mexicans out”, I suppose such a vote makes sense – Trump has made it clear in word and deed that he will do just that.  Know that when the time comes in your life that you find love and acceptance for all, you will not be alone, and you will be accepted and loved no matter how long it takes.

We often say “America is the greatest country.”  Yet greatness is not some inherent, static quality – greatness is the result of actions.  America is and has been the greatest country only because Americans took actions that were great.  Today, specifically with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, we the people of the United States of America, through our leaders, are not behaving with greatness.  There is a trap that believing that because our past was the actions of greatness, that our current actions are themselves examples of greatness.”  Hogwash.  The lesson is not “because we do it it must be great”, but “we choose our actions because they are great.”  Our current behavior is not an example of greatness, it is an example of hubris.  There are examples of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with greatness.  Taiwan.  Vietnam.  Canada.  And, of course, the gold-standard for handling the pandemic, New Zealand where Jacinda Ardern is leading a master class on how to be an engaged, compassionate leader.  The good old U.S. of A?  Based on our behavior, our peers are Brazil.  India.  Russia.  Really?  That’s us?  Yup, that is the company we’re keeping.  We are behaving with such pathetic small-minded navel-gazing that the analogy of Rome in its fall, with Trump as our own Nero, comes far too readily and cuts far too close.  I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but I feel the burn and anger of shame.  The shame that while my efforts of limiting our interactions to pickup-only may have avoided contributing to making our society’s response to the pandemic even worse, those efforts have not really contributed to making that response better.  The absence of a negative is good, but it is not the same as the presence of a positive.  And, perhaps non-obviously, because we still have the ability to change our future behavior, this is why we’re reopening now.

To be clear, we are not reopening “because things have gotten better.”  I’m not going to feed you that drivel.  Things aren’t getting better.  We’ve plateaued at a high level of infections and death.  Nationwide, the we’ve had more than 1000 deaths per day since July 24 (7-day average).  As a society, this is the world we are choosing through our actions to accept, 1000 dead every day.  When I wrote our first plan in May, the guidance was 1 new infection per 1-million people per day.  Today in Milwaukee county, we’re seeing ~200 new infections per million people per day.  No, it is neither “good” nor is it “getting better.”  Nor am I going to ignore the data to fit the narrative to make it sound like we’re reopening because, gosh, the worst is behind us.  It isn’t.

What is behind us is the illusion that doing no harm is good enough.  We need to start doing actual good, and that means we need to be able to more-actively model what good behavior looks like in a reopening environment – because modeling the good behavior of remaining closed for the common good has proven to be ineffective. We are reopening now because we need to shift from the-absence-of-bad to the-addition-of-good, even though this means some amount of adding-bad.  Yes, there will be virus spread because of this choice, my choice.  That is foreseeable.  We’ll do our best to ensure it is a minimal amount, and hopefully those infected have mild cases.  They might not.  Someone might have serious symptoms, or even die as a result of an infection picked up at one of our locations.  As a result of our reopening.  My call.  And I’ll live with that call.  Because I believe that we have to be present to win, we have to be in the room to have a voice, and we have to be open for business to add good to the world.

Our mission, as I’ve said many times over the years, is to create a meaningful lifestyle for our employees, where they can use their talents and skills to help make the world a better place by creating and strengthening connections for the people we touch through games.  An addition of goodness to the world.  If we don’t reopen, we will not contribute badness, but we will also not contribute goodness.  So that we can contribute goodness and work towards our mission, we shall reopen.

Till next time, when I’ll get to tell you about something in the contributing-good-to-the-world column: our new Virtual Barrister video shopping service.

Be well,

Gordon L.

Gordon, a.k.a. "the" Barrister, or simply "G", opened the first Board Game Barrister store in 2005 in a fit of delusion: that he could both finish up law school and start a retail business - one has worked out, the other less so. Gordon loves working in the toy industry, which is filled with wonderful people who love what they do; he loves working with his fellow Barristers; and he loves the community of people that has grown around the playing of games together at the Board Game Barrister stores. If Gordon were a Dungeons & Dragons character, he would be a lawful goody-two-shoes silicon wizard with a skills in perl and complex compound sentences. Gordon loves many games, but when forced to choose he went with China, Power Grid, Lost Cities, and Empire Builder.

Enjoy the article so far? Recommend it to your friends and peers.