January 23, 2021 - 9:00 pm
A quote attributed to P.T. Barnum still rings true today: “A sucker is born every minute.”
That’s true only because too many of us just accept things as true without evidence. When a lie is told over and over and over again, people begin to believe in the lie. It appears people would rather trust an anecdote than a body of information or evidence.
The first law of statistics is to “Ask the next question.” When someone tells you about an “average,” are they talking about the mean, medium or mode? Those numbers can be misleading. Are there qualifiers in their statements that skew the information? Americans are warned against con men regularly. Better business bureaus tell us to check out credentials before hiring or paying for anything upfront. State agencies and banks continually warn us about phishing scams and how to handle situations that can negatively impact you.
Americans need to be smart so they are not scammed. They need to look behind the curtain of the smiling pitchperson to determine if what’s being proposed is true. Not doing due diligence is what gets us in trouble. The same should be true in politics. Ronald Reagan said it nicely: “Trust, but verify.”
America is facing trouble today because too many people on both sides of issues can’t argue the “other” person’s side because of a lack of knowledge. If people truly understand the issues they are debating, they can take either side and win the argument. If you can’t take the other person’s side, then you really don’t know enough about the subject to argue intelligently.
Some news outlets will tell their audience not to listen to other news outlets. That should be a red flag to anyone listening. What that says is they know their argument will not hold up under scrutiny. What we should all understand is that many issues within a debate are most likely agreed upon by both parties, the differences should be worked out. Said more simply, one side is not all right and the other side all wrong.
Talking over each other, yelling at each other, calling each other names and labeling others does nothing except incite people. The merits of an argument are all lost in the fray. America has some real issues that need to be taken seriously by both sides.
We are in a pandemic. No matter what leaders do, there are no perfect answers. We were just hacked/attacked by a foreign government, and there was not a response — that’s an issue. Our economy and military supremacy depend on math, science and technology, yet people in these fields are being referred to as elitists and science is being vilified. As the vaccine rolls out, does anyone really think there is only one way to distribute and administer the vaccine? Of course not, but there does have to be a decision that some will like and others will not.
On some issues there are clear concerns on both sides. Take health care. I don’t want to give up my doctors or insurance, but I also don’t believe health care should be available only for those who can afford it. Many believe that taxes are not fairly administered, that people and corporations are not paying their fair share. Many believe that if we are going to pay welfare, then recipients should do public service if they can’t find a job. There are merits to both sides of all these arguments.
The United States is a nation of laws. But when you realize those laws are written by the moneyed or connected, it’s easy to see the bias. That bias is publicly displayed every time there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. While we should be a nation of laws, court decisions should be tempered with what is right and wrong.
For our government to work, we must take time to better know and understand the issues and how they really impact us. Ignorance cannot become an American ideal.
Bill Hanlon writes from Las Vegas.