When it comes to most matters, I’m one of those people who can typically see both sides of an issue. For example, I don’t own a weapon, but I understand and respect the right of others who own a gun to protect themselves or use a rifle for hunting. I believe an organized society needs fair laws that protect its citizens, and we need the police to uphold those laws. I am a big supporter of law enforcement. I generally think they do an excellent job doing a difficult task, especially given their decisions must happen in a split second. The actions of a few bad ones shouldn’t cloud our judgment of the profession as a whole. At the same time, we can’t bury our heads in the sand as some officers use their positions of authority in abusive ways.
I have friends of all political persuasions and understand good people can have honest differences of opinion. We have to be able to accept that not everyone is going to think the way we do. Over the last decade, I have noticed a change in the way people talk to one another. For some, this means insulting and calling people names without hesitation. Let’s not pretend that this only happens on one side of the political landscape. Have our standards sunk so low that we can’t treat each other with human decency?
It’s hard to get the news these days without a biased point of view. Whether I’m watching CNN or Fox, I know I’m getting information through their lens. One only has to switch the channel back and forth for five minutes to see how each can take the same event and have a completely different spin. While I like to know what is happening globally, there continue to be fewer sources that report the news unfiltered and unbiased.
Everywhere we turn these days, it seems bad things are happening. The pandemic has now raged on for seventeen months. Climate change continues to create havoc. Last year there were a record number of acres burned in my state (California) from all of the wildfires; this year, we’re ahead of that pace. Many people have lost their homes or their lives. It’s staggering, and we continue to get hit time and time again. The same is true all over the western United States. If that’s not enough, there’s Afghanistan, Haiti, hurricanes, crime, homelessness, drug abuse, mental health, stress, etc. The list is endless. In a sense, we’re being worn down physically and emotionally from all of the sadness and negativity.
One of the other manifestations of not seeing the other side of the coin is that people get entrenched in their positions to the point where they stop looking at things objectively. We always want to feel that we’re right or know better than others who don’t think the same way we do. This is the point where much of the name-calling originates.
As critical thinkers, we continuously gather information. Here comes the challenging part—do we have the ability to change our opinions, or are we so stubborn in our thought process that we continue to hold onto our beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence? Evaluating and analyzing are two of the higher-level thinking skills that allow us to revise our opinions.
I’m a guy of reasonable intelligence, but I know many people in the world are far more intelligent than me. One skill I possess is the ability to admit when I was wrong. Sometimes it’s not even a matter of being right or wrong; it’s the act of changing my opinion after getting more information.
Here are two concrete examples that better explain what I’m talking about:
Andrew Cuomo—At the start of the pandemic, I gave him high marks for how he handled the pandemic. As time passed, I revised my opinion of not only his performance but also his character. Call me old-fashioned, but is it too much to ask our politicians to exhibit good character? I don’t want to start listing a bunch of other individuals guilty of similar misdeeds, but we know it’s not limited to one side of the political spectrum.
The point is I revised my opinion based on credible information. That’s what critical thinkers do. They consult reliable sources—not outlandish ones that exist to inflame their bases with wild conspiracy theories. We have to rely on the experts—those who don’t have a political ax to grind. When I have a significant automobile problem, I take my vehicle to a mechanic. Just because I know how to put gasoline in my truck and change the oil doesn’t mean I can rebuild an engine. That’s why we consult professionals.
Seat belts—For many years, I didn’t wear a seat belt. I didn’t have a good reason not to; it was more of a habit than anything. If I ignored the warning bell long enough, it went away. I was driving home one day when I got pulled over by the police. I knew I wasn’t speeding and couldn’t understand why the officer stopped me. As he started walking up to my car, I realized I wasn’t wearing my seat belt and quickly put it on. What followed was a rather embarrassing conversation where the cop politely and professionally told me that he had pulled me over because I hadn’t been wearing my seat belt.
Rather than act like a little boy and pretend that I’d been wearing it all along, I sheepishly accepted the ticket. After he drove off, my first thought was, What a dumb law! I’m not harming anyone. Why should I have to pay a ticket for this? The problem was that I knew the police officer was only doing his job. As I thought about it more, I realized my decision not to wear my seat belt affected others. What if I had gotten in an accident and died because I wasn’t wearing my seat belt? My choice would have affected many others, including my wife and my son. Should my wife have to bury her husband and be forced to deal with the emotions that come with losing a loved one? Should my son have to grow up without a father because his dad made a poor decision? What if the EMTs and hospital staff had to use precious resources because I was too stubborn to put on my seat belt? I had to admit, “I WAS WRONG.”
I illustrate this anecdote for a reason. I have kept silent for the most part since Covid began, but I can no longer do that. Like others, I had a few reservations about getting vaccinated. I’m not the type of person who picks up antibiotics at the first sign of a cold. Maybe the vaccines were rushed without proper vetting? Perhaps all of the medical experts are wrong? Maybe the media is creating a lot of unnecessary drama? I don’t like big government; I like the freedom to choose.
It’s time for the unvaccinated to consider, do individual rights take priority over the greater good? I think it’s a fair question—not one to provoke or insult. At some point, it may be necessary to revise our opinions based on what we’ve learned. It’s no more severe than the flu. We now know that isn’t true. Approximately 4,500,000 people have died worldwide from the Coronavirus. Well over 600,000 of those people were in the United States alone. Yeah, but those numbers are inflated! We may never know how accurate they are, but is there any denying that too many people have passed? Yeah, but the vaccinated can get the virus too! That’s true, but only a tiny percentage of them are dying.
Those who refuse to change their stance have to be aware of the enormous strain on our hospitals, doctors, and nurses. They are risking their lives each day going to work. Some have thrown in the towel. Our local newspaper just reported that four of our nurses in the ER quit, unable to continue at this unrealistic pace.
What about those with other serious medical problems who have difficulty gaining admittance because our hospitals are bursting at the seams with Covid patients? At this point, all credible evidence shows us that vaccines and masks work. The overwhelming majority of medical personnel (not biased news sources) tell us to vaccinate and mask up. Are there those who recommend otherwise? Yes, but take that with a grain of salt. Some people still think the Holocaust, moon landing, and Sandy Hook never happened.
There have been many times throughout the pandemic when I thought people would eventually see the only responsible thing to do was get vaccinated. When President Trump got Covid, I felt that others might start to believe. When family, close friends, or neighbors passed, I thought it would make people act. When some of the most conservative influential spokespeople advised it was time to get vaccinated, I hoped it might be a turning point. Now that the FDA has officially approved the Pfizer vaccine, I prayed it might move the needle for some of the holdouts, but somehow, they think they know better than the experts.
We were lulled into a false sense of security when young people weren’t getting sick initially, but that has changed with the variants. If my child died and I wasn’t vaccinated, I don’t know how I’d live with myself. The guilt would be overwhelming.
I’ve kept quiet as long as I could, but I can’t do it anymore. One of my neighbors recently passed who was quite vocal in the beginning that “Covid was all fake.” I want to respect his family’s privacy by not getting into specifics, but this was not an older person with previous medical problems Not getting the vaccine with all of the information we now possess is as irresponsible as drinking and driving, reckless driving, texting while driving, or driving blindfolded. Do the adult thing and get yourself vaccinated. There have been far too many preventable deaths already. Please stop the madness.