You can argue that Americans in the Midcentury Moment were too willing to accept pandemic or battlefield deaths, just as they were too willing to accept racial segregation or to stigmatize uncommon lifestyles.

But there’s also a strong argument that they had a more realistic sense of the limits of the human condition and the efficacy of official action than Americans have today — certainly more than the governors stubbornly enforcing lockdowns till the virus is stamped out and deaths fall to zero.

Behind that stance is the assumption there’s an instant and painless solution for every problem, rather than a need to weigh conflicting goals and make tragic choices amid unavoidable uncertainty.