The Sickness of Society and the Rise of the Virtuous Ones

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Why do you believe the things that you do?

The sickness is all around us. Some are immune, but they’ll never know it. Instead, they’ll sit in fear as they watch every other person around them get sick. The vast majority of those infected will recover after a week of hell, and the healthiest person in the group will die from drowning. 

And every other person on any given Facebook feed will post opinions for or against the reality of coronavirus, and every post will miss the point. Maybe a third of the posts will be backed by information from a “legitimate” source, and perhaps half of those sources will have information that is partially true. The problem, of which I don’t have a solution, is that each person that posts information will do so with the idea that they are correct and the opposing idea is clearly wrong. In this new world of collective anger and anxiety, posting anything that suggests agreement for a certain point of view will surely be passionately contested by someone. And when this occurs, there will form two sides that both think that they are correct and that the opposing ideology is wrong; but not just wrong, absurd, unintelligent, immoral. 

So how does a society divided amongst moral and logical lines reconcile itself? I hope the answer isn’t that it can’t; but my hope is wearing thin. I’m only slightly less guilty than those I criticize. I’ve got my opinions on the sickness, and the actual impact of racism in this country, and the relevance of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the effect of a second term for President Trump; and for every one of my opinions is a list of logical arguments and sources to back them up. 

In some circles, my ideas are so obvious that they aren’t even worth mentioning lest the conversation devolve into the dreaded intellectual circle jerk where everyone states their shared beliefs amongst like-minded people. On the other hand, the vast majority of my family, peers, and acquaintances under the age of 40 would cringe, and in some cases, become overly-emotional and agitated at the thought that someone that they know personally could feel such a way. 

The intensity of the reactions that I’ve encountered, both for and against my train of thought was such that I became fully committed to understanding the reasoning behind it all. As someone that tends to lean to the right on most social and political topics, the extremes of that side were easier to understand. Highly contested topics such as the idea that racism and oppression against blacks in our country is a serious issue sounds absurd to me; but that is nothing new to many that lean right.

Conversely, those on the left that I’ve spoken with about such topics are so confident in their position that the very thought of someone disagreeing with them is seen as a personal attack on their core beliefs, or rather, an attack on them personally. 

Ultimately, the problem with debates on the aforementioned hot topics of today is that both parties are usually starting from separate premises. For instance, a Black Lives Matter activist might think something along the lines of, “‘Most police officers are racist. Racism is bad, therefore, police should be abolished.” The reasoning behind such a claim in this scenario might  be, “Cops are murdering unarmed black people regularly, look at George Floyd. Look at Ahmad Arbury. Look at Breonna Taylor.” From the point of view of the person that sees their Facebook feed filled with angry articles and outrage over the unjust killings of black people by white police officers; it isn’t difficult to see why they might believe that this is a significant issue worthy of riots and social unrest. Afterall, the newest lasting trend of the 21st century is victimhood. 

The skeptical, yet open-minded individual might question the reasoning and motives behind the Black Lives Matter movement and turn to Google to seek out answers for themselves. It won’t take long for the person that is asking the right questions to find definitive answers in this age of infinite information at our fingertips. Nearly all of the highly publicized cases on which Black Lives Matter has built its global brand fall apart upon examination. In fact, in nearly every case of a black person being killed by a police officer in the past year, the black person was either armed or actively fighting against the police when they were killed. 

It is important to note that every case is different, and I don’t doubt that there was some foul play in some of those scenarios; however, the fact remains that in almost every single case, the “innocent, unarmed black person” was indeed committing a crime and was also breaking what should be considered the golden rule when dealing with police officers –– don’t resist arrest or attempt to harm the cops. If they are wrong, well that’s what the court system is for.

This concept, which seems so simple and straightforward to me, and what I assume is the majority of citizens in this country, is nothing short of racist and would warrant the harshest of responses from more than half of the millenials that I know, as well as, a decent amount of people in the generation that preceded me. 

It was because of this realization that I arrived at what I find to be the root of the problem. Those that see racism and oppression as a major issue in our society (the left), start from the premise that minorities are oppressed because of systemic racism. Conversely, the group that opposes this ideology (the right), bases their arguments on the idea that America is a country where anyone, regardless of race or upbringing, has the opportunity to succeed. The American dream.

The result of any debate between passionate participants of either ideology will almost always be inconclusive because neither side will be able to relate to the arguments of the other. One side holds its beliefs based on the idea that the world is a certain way, while the other will disagree because they have a fundamentally different view of the world. 

It reminds me of something some history teacher from middle school once said in regards to war. “Both sides think that they are fighting for a just cause and, in most cases, both sides believe in and pray to a God; but in the end, one side always wins and one side always loses, regardless of who was actually right.” 

My fear is that we have come to the point where the country is irreversibly divided. Each side believes that they are not only correct, but also the virtuous ones. The most likely outcome that I foresee is some form of civil war. I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that our society is on the brink of collapse due to fundamental differences in opinion on the most important of topics. 

I don’t doubt that many of the Black Lives Matter supporters came to be out of good intentions. However, I also don’t think the vast majority of them realize how extreme things have become as a result of it. Several blocks of a major city in America has been seized, dozens of innocent people have been killed and seriously injured during protests, police forces in major cities known for high crime rates have stopped coming to work resulting in rampant violent crime, the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country. Innocent people have been locked up for daring to go to work while criminals that stole and destroyed property have been set free with all charges dropped. Statues and monuments of the very people that fought to end slavery, and even memorials erected specifically for black people have been vandalized and destroyed. Decades old brands that showcased black people that started as slaves and went on to become successful in life are being erased. 

The cause of the recent protests and subsequent riots that are, and have been, occurring across much of America over the past few weeks was one that nearly every American could get behind. We all saw the video of George Floyd pleading for his dead mother with his dying breaths, and everyone was in agreement that it was a bad thing. For a brief moment, I was even optimistic that this tragic event might bring both sides together for once; and yet somehow, we found a way to hate each other while actually being in agreement.

Going back to the first major 2020 point of division, the spread of coronavirus, our nation remains divided. Not only do we fight about how to handle the outbreak, our country is even divided about the very existence of this century’s first worldwide pandemic. Some believe the whole thing is a hoax. I assume those people have not experienced a death in the family as a result of it. Others believe that Covid-19 is equivalent to the modern plague. Many of those that hold this opinion believe that everyone should be forced to stay inside or be forced to wear a mask if they dare to go out into the world. There are people that believe that the country should have never been locked down, and there are those that believe the lockdown should not have been lifted. Many participants of each ideology could pull up reasons from what they consider to be a credible source as justification for their beliefs; and indeed, each source would be considered legitimate; and yet, each “credible” source presents a different opinion. 

So, what are we to make of this mess? This truly is a strange time. How can you blame someone for having a strong belief in something that not only seems like the moral and ethical move, but that is also backed up by the source that they, and millions of others consider to be the authority on the subject? Even those that know nothing of whatever the topic at hand might be can look to one side or another and feel comfortable in their decision. It’s easy to justify your position when millions of people are on your side. 

At a certain point, the truth of any given matter ceased to be as important as the group that supported it. This was the start of our downfall. When political correctness overtook reason, and when loyalty to a group, be it racial or political, became more important than truth, those who dared share opinions on public forums were forced to take sides. The sad result of this was that we as a nation, as a people, became divided. The escalation of our collective discontent for the opposition led to chaos in our country and dissent on every major issue that we have faced. 

I don’t have all of the answers, I doubt any one human does; but until we can find a way to get on the same page and communicate our concerns and issues, we are destined for mutually assured destruction.

As is the case with every piece of published opinion, I fully acknowledge that my views come with some level of bias. With that being said, it should be considered that my opinions are formed as a result of careful analysis of multiple news sources on all sides of the political spectrum. Furthermore, I find it beneficial to frequent the top tweets and ensuing comments from relevant parties. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion; but if they haven’t done the research, that opinion isn’t worth much.

Stan Collins Boyd

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