As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I work with a lot of different local law enforcement officers. All but one of them that I know of are staunch conservatives. Most of the friends we have at the local sheriff’s office know that my coworkers and I don’t hold the same beliefs, so we all show each other courtesy and respect by not discussing politics in each others’ company. However, a lot of the small municipal police stations will send a trooper out once in awhile that wastes no time in telling us all about the latest conservative conspiracy theories, with blatant disregard for what our political leanings are.
I’m someone who goes out of my way to make sure I am not offending or upsetting anyone, especially in a work environment. I’m not above discussing politics, but I’m sure to get a feel of the audience I have before doing so. It never really made sense to me why these officers were so eager to bring up these topics among mixed company. Yesterday it finally dawned on me though. Not only do they not care if you agree with them or not, they are pleased with themselves either way. If you agree, then they’re happy. But if you disagree they’re equally satisfied. In the latter case they’ve successfully “owned the libs” and “triggered” people, which they seem to enjoy for some reason that is beyond me.
I try not to become upset by the outrageous things they say and believe. I know I have absolutely no chance of changing their minds. Instead, I try to use their openness about these topics as an opportunity to ask questions and find out what exactly the other side is being told and subsequently believing. I’m also curious to know what their thought process is when exposed to this false information. To what extent, if at all, are they employing critical thinking skills? The more practice I get with these situations, the easier it becomes to diffuse my anger with genuine curiosity.
Yesterday the cop that came told us about a story where a man was told he was going to die of Covid. He was in the hospital on a ventilator and there was nothing more the doctors could do. According to this cop, the family begged for Ivermectin, the doctors refused (because it is not an effective treatment for Covid), and the family proceeded to petition the court to grant them access to the drug. In the cop’s version, the court ordered the doctors to comply with the family’s wishes, and the man miraculously made a full recovery.
Now I didn’t think much of this story. I was skeptical that it was even true, but either way it didn’t really matter. Even if it had been 100% true, that wouldn’t be relevant evidence that Ivermectin was the cause of his recovery. One anecdotal example is not enough to prove anything. Especially when the body of scientific evidence and controlled studies have shown the opposite. However, I was absolutely shocked to discover that this was not even an accurate version of the story.
I was telling my sister about it later that night. I don’t keep up with the news anymore, so I knew nothing about it, but she told me that story was actually on the news. Although the news story was identical to this officer’s up to a certain point, it diverged entirely at the end. The real story was that the court denied the family’s petition for the drug (because it’s a horse dewormer, not a Covid treatment), the man did not take it, and he died in the hospital exactly as the doctors predicted. Now I knew that the divide between political parties in this country is worse than ever, but I had no idea that there was this level of discrepancy between the information both sides are receiving.
I’m truly at a loss to even imagine a way that our country and the world at large will ever be able to come back from this age of polarity and misinformation. It’s no longer merely a difference of opinion, perspective, or interpretation between liberals and conservatives. These two groups are now living in completely different realities. While I understand that the propaganda the right is being fed is usually obviously false and laughably ridiculous, it does make me less likely to believe any news sources about anything regardless of whether I agree with/like what they say or not.
I think more and more people are starting to feel the way that I do. There is no more trust when it comes to facts, assertions, or “truth” regardless of the source. It feels like as a species we’ve lost all bearing on reality. It makes me wonder, and quite frankly fear, what that will mean for us going forward. As a child we are taught that there are facts and opinions. We’re taught how to identify the difference. Yet now it feels like there are only opinions. We’re never taught that even facts can be manipulated and skewed by our personal beliefs and expectations. If you want to find an article or even a scientific study to support just about anything you believe, you can find one.
I have been disheartened by this ever since I realized it, yet I still believed that if we had the time, effort, and access to resources, there was a real truth somewhere to be found and proven definitively. Now I don’t know if I even believe that. In today’s world, with so much knowledge and scientific data available to the general public, it feels like we are more lost in intellectual obscurity than ever before. It does give me more sympathy for the other side though. Hell, if I was constantly being bombarded with the stories and supposed facts that they are, I’d likely be just as angry and frustrated.
Instead of anger, all I feel is hopelessness. There is no urge in me to try to fight what I believe to be a futile battle to return to any sense of middle ground as a nation. I fully believe the divide between our realities will continue to grow wider and wider. I’m not sure how that is going to turn out, but I can only image it is going to be ugly. Yet, I see no possibility for intervention or reunification. All that’s left to do is wait and watch this slow motion train wreck proceed.