Do You Have Five Minutes to Consider: Are We Able Mentally, to Distance from our Assumptions?
As of April 25, 2020, a majority of Americans is in favor of the social distancing that has been practiced recently by vast majorities of the American population. There has been, in many parts of the country (better late than never, right?) a greater awareness than usual of the toll or racism and poverty, of our prison system and inequalities in general.
We have also seen a dramatic lifting of fog — literally — a lessening of pollution from the air in many of our cities, air that has seen a minimizing of the impact of emissions from cars and other things gas related. This might just make some climate science doubters actually doubt their own convictions and well, let’s be honest, their assumptions.
It is one day after President Trump suggested an ingestion of Lysol as a potential cure for the coronavirus plaguing both our country and much of the world at large. At the same time, I am well aware that the exposure of Trump’s association of Lysol with cure of any kind, has been, in the eyes and mouths of those who support him unconditionally, based on false, evil, nasty liberal news media.
So then, what might it take to make it popular for us to consider our assumptions that anything the President — or anyone for that matter, utters — is true, at any cost? I confess as I’ve done before, that there are many times in my life where I had assumed as true: the absolute glory of Abraham Lincoln, or that I wasn’t racist because I was liberal, as just two examples.
At a time when the world is so complex, crowded and full of possible disasters, the truth seems more important than ever. Fine, if we have a religion that gives people a belief system that is strengthening to our spiritual existence and experience. And fine if it gives us a place to sing and shout or meditate and reflect and practice our faith.
The problem comes when religions breed more hate and exclusive rights to sanctuary and to salvation. And when they hide in the dungeons of our political realm as well, insisting we believe in the credos of one leader at any cost, no matter how ungrounded or even violent that rhetoric becomes. And when we believe, as such, that some are granted immunity from examination, evaluations and doubts that to live sanely either alone or in a group, are both healthy and necessary.
In a democracy, from what I know, a leader is supposed to take, accept and answer difficult questions formulated to put that leader on the spot. This is not a matter of hostile motivation but of responsible inquiry and the job of a free press to push for answers and assign questions that reflect the need for greater clarity. So, let me just go for the gold: we can’t be really free if we can’t question our own assumptions.
Hitler coined the term “the big lie”. Say something over and over again, give someone (like Hitler) the worship and the authority of being emperor on earth and have gobs of people believe anything he says, and propaganda has won it all.
The Roman or the Nazi or the American emperor who can execute anyone who dares to disagree or question his authority, is something we can slip into following, without even realizing it. Without a healthy press and a healthy set of doubts on the part of the public, there is no accountability at all. And with people who decide beforehand that the “other” side is a bunch of liars, there is no longer motivation to cooperate in the effort to find out and weigh matters of crucial importance.
We need people who want to collaborate based on evidence, based on wanting to make things better. And optimism can come on practical levels even to business interests when they realize that they can make successful ventures based on helping transition from fossil fuels, transition from private prison systems, transition from inequality as a staple.
Skies are less polluted, and in many parts of the world there has been a real caring about people on human levels. There has been a real appreciation of the roles of those paid too little, who serve us in such basic ways in terms of both health and food industries.
So, can we push the envelope even further and seek on purpose to distance ourselves, not just socially but mentally from our own assumptions?
All of us have something to learn. If we insist on an attraction to someone like Trump who will protect the image of Americans as the best now and always, who will protect us against immigrants as if they were the virus, we act out of fear alone. Americans are being asked to fight the perceived attack on American superiority. We are being asked to corral into small spaces, mentally as well while we are called on to believe that putting chains on our intellect, on our curiosity and our humanity, can ever be held up as an emblem of freedom.
If we react and vote out of knee jerk reactions, if we decide in advance that the factual information given to us by the top scientists in the land, is only propaganda, then propaganda rules us in a way that blocks out both the truth and freedom of choice. One alternative is to affirm the need for enough mental space within which to breathe in air less polluted by assumptions or by those who would try to force them upon us.