Since the time of Socrates, we in the West have defined knowledge as a justified, true belief. Knowledge demands truth and reasonable evidence to justify the belief. On the opposite side, opinion is defined as a belief without truth or justification. Opinion can be motivated by feelings, prejudice, irrational hero worship and/or political agendas.
We are currently living in a time where knowledge is being replaced by opinion, and the result is a threat to our democracy and the common good.
For example, we know that the coronavirus is real and not a hoax. We know that 210,000 Americans have died from this deadly disease. We know that African Americans, Indigenous Americans and Latin and Hispanic Americans are disproportionately infected and dying at a greater rate than Anglo Americans. We know that wearing a mask, social distancing and hand washing reduces the spread of the virus. We know that testing, contract tracing and quarantine/isolation protects others. These things we know.
Yet, so many Americans are of the opinion that the virus is no more than a mild case of the flu or that the “fake news media” has overstated the seriousness of the pandemic. Some have even equated mask wearing as an infringement of their civil rights and to quarantine and isolate is like slavery. Oh, how slaves would have loved to be privy to door delivery food, cable television and internet access. Such is the character of opinion: a false, unjustified belief.
The president of the United States still chooses opinion over truth. He is contagious but refuses to do what is rational and responsible. The saddest part is that many Americans are following his lead. Despite being hospitalized, he treats COVID-19 as no big deal, and in doing so, he is influencing people to act in the same manner.
Several of my students told me this week that the coronavirus has been blown out of proportion and that they do not believe the death toll nor that masks make any real difference. These are bright young people who have swallowed untruth and are operating by it. How sad and dangerous.
For years, as a child, I would hear my mother say, “Some folks don’t believe fat meat is greasy.” For those of you who do not know what “fat meat” is, fat meat is generally fat pork used for seasoning greens, beans, etc. in the boiling process. It adds flavor, but beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is a greasy item. Not to believe that “fat meat is greasy” is to demonstrate pure irrationality. Far too many Americans, from the White House down, are acting like they do not believe that fat meat is greasy.
The issue of COVID-19 is more than a political issue with me. It is a matter of public health and the common good. Our children are at risk in public schools. We were told that they cannot contract the virus. That information was false. Those who work in stores, custodial service, nursing, trucking, factories, meat processing, etc. are being endangered. How would you tell someone who has lost a family member to COVID-19 that the virus is not real or deadly?
It is time for us to get it together — here in Columbia and across the nation. We need to dismiss the political agenda — and the irrational behavior of the POTUS — and adopt a sense of responsible social action. We are all in this together.
If we merely would think about one another and move beyond our egos, we can save each other from sickness and death. Believe me, you will not receive the kind of A+ treatment in the hospital like the president experienced. There are a lot of issues we need to deal with in this country, and we cannot do it if we are sick or dead. We must take care of each other. Wear a mask.