Be Smart

In the last few weeks, I’ve made a conscious decision to stay away from the news. It is not healthy for me to doomscroll and so I’ve actively turned toward media as an escape. 

Last week my wife flipped on MSNBC and after a few minutes I asked nicely if we could watch anything else. She flipped through the menu and found The Godfather and I settled into the comfort of a movie I knew well, but hadn’t seen in a while. I was engrossed in the action, watching Pacino and Brando, and reinforcing the importance of family (even though I know the Corleone family aren’t really the good guys). It was a pleasant distraction. 

I know full well the coronavirus continues to burn through America like the plague it is. I know full well the militarized troops in American cities are designed solely to scare average people. I know full well that conspiracy theories and misinformation are flooding social media, opinion pieces, and television “opinions as news” hours on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. I get uncomfortable watching political news because everyone seems so incredibly stupid or willfully ignorant. It is infuriating.

Because Will Leitch tweeted about it, I read Ed Yong’s article in The Atlantic about how the coronavirus laid bare the cracks in our society. From healthcare, to prisons, to nursing homes, and our pathetic national response. I could not read it in one sitting. I had to stop several times because I could feel my blood pressure shooting up and my mental health deteriorating with each sentence.  

It is a truth bomb and I’m tired of feeling like one of those buildings destroyed in an atomic weapons test in the 50s.

It is far better for me to listen to an audiobook, walk the dog, work in the yard, and pretend everything outside my little corner of the universe is humming along nicely. It is a fantasy, of course. 

My social media feeds have been curated to an inch of their life to avoid too much of the insane antics of the real world. Usually the truth will set you free. Nowadays it brings only despair, sorrow and pity. I hardly visit Facebook. I go to Instagram for pictures, not for politics. Most of my news comes from a curated list of RSS and Twitter feeds. 

What I’ve found is I want people to be smarter. Just be smart enough to know you don’t know as much as the experts, as the scientists, as the health professionals and just listen to what they have to say. And then do it. This belittling of expertise is literally killing people. 

Just be smart enough to listen to the experts. 

Of course, I know why they won’t… it messes with their preconceived notions about the world and their place in it. A conviction that strong doesn’t get changed overnight or maybe ever. They are addicted to the lie. They need the lie. They need the truth to be bent toward their point of view instead of just being the truth. 

The internet has all the truths in the world and all the lies, but the lies have better clickbait headlines. It’s easy to build a whole little bubble of lies and live inside and when you live years inside the lie it’s all the more difficult to see the lie for what it is… a lie.

Problems happen when the bubble bursts. COVID-19 is one such sharp object. 

No matter how many times you can say it’s a hoax or it’s magically going to disappear, this virus isn’t going away. Mind you, it affects people of both sides of the aisle but if one side listens to scientists and health officials and heeds their advice and one side doesn’t… guess who pays the price? 

Everyone. 

I’ve been home now for more than 130 days. I’d like to return to some sort of normal where I can go to movies, watch sports in person, and see a live concert. If everyone would just wear a mask out in public, try to socially distance around others, wash their hands for 30 seconds with soap, and generally do what they can to stop the spread of this virus, we could be doing all of these things and more. Just like the rest of the developed nations of the world. We aren’t because we have the most inept leadership in the history of our country. 

Look, it’s less than 100 days until the election and under 170 until Inauguration Day. Who knows what ridiculousness will happen between now and then. All I know for sure is that it won’t be good and it will be filled with the idotic and the willfully ignorant.

When I go to a grocery store now and see someone without a mask on I’m immediately angry. Like from 0 to 100 mph calm to full anger. Every time I watch a video of some idiot being shamed for not wearing a mask or reading about scared white people waving guns at peaceful protesters, I mentally lose it.

The truth of the real world can be too much these days. It’s why it was comforting to watch a fictional competent gangster eliminate his enemies. It’s also why I can’t stop thinking about this scene from The Godfather Part II everywhere I go. Fredo isn’t smart. He was never smart. He listened and believed the wrong people and he paid the consequences.

Can we as a society just be smart and listen to the experts? I want to get through this as fast and as safe as the next person. 

Let’s be smart.