Among my burning wishes for the American people at this juncture in an already crisis-ridden 2021 is this: That many more of us would become passionate about pinning down the hard and provable facts behind the front-page issues in the news.
Those whose identities are hard-wired into thinking of themselves as “a conservative” or “a liberal,” of being “on the right” or “on the left,” seem to have a tougher struggle welcoming this passion for the facts than those who identify as pragmatists or centrists.
It’s hard, I realize, to make a switch.
Perhaps we grew up in “a Republican family,” or one that always voted Democratic. It can feel like a betrayal of your roots to begin sympathizing with “the other side.” Or maybe we are surrounded by co-workers who lean staunchly left or right. Or the church where we worship makes us feel very uneasy if we disagree with a political stance shared by most members.
Some may say “I watch only Fox” or “I get all my news online” (and that can mean, among other things, extreme leftwing or extreme rightwing websites). I’ve heard more than a few say “I’ve stopped following the news completely. It’s all bonkers. I can’t trust any of ‘em.”
None of the above-cited attitudes, in my centrist opinion, stokes a passion for “getting to the facts.”
I would argue that preserving our 240-plus-year-old democracy hinges critically on having enough of our policymakers and citizens join together in a mission to dig out the facts, then apply well-reasoned logic to arrive at defensible conclusions. Here are some concrete instances.
VIRUS CONTROL: A health care expert was quoted in this newspaper several days ago saying he knew of not a single incident of anyone being hospitalized due to a bad reaction to a COVID-19 vaccination, and yet we all realize that more than 640,000 Americans have died of the virus. I myself have not seen evidence anywhere that people are getting seriously sick from the shot.
Yet that fear is rife among the vaccine resistant. The facts are there, the facts are indisputable, and logic says “Follow the facts.” Against all evidence and logic, people cling to a false belief that “the shot is worse than the virus,” some in support of “defending my freedom” or “staying loyal to Trump.”
ABORTION: Is Roe v. Wade “settled opinion” on the Supreme Court? Or not? Will eviscerating that ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states be the magic bullet that will roll back the tide of at-will abortion that has swept our land? Or not? I have yet to spot a fact-based, logical analysis.
Overburdened police departments and courts would have a hard time coping with chasing down violators of new abortion-curtailing laws in Texas, and hence state legislators there have had the brilliant idea of deputizing ordinary citizens to report on their neighbors for a $10,000 bounty. Just like in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. And that is a factual comparison.
AFGHANISTAN: Whose idea was it to end our 20-year-long war in that far-off Middle Eastern country where tribal instinct and Islamic fundamentalism reign? Joe Biden’s or Donald Trump’s? The correct answer is both. Hard to realize that from all the left- and right-wing finger pointing.