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Believe It or Not
As hard as I try, it’s a challenge for me to shrug off the boneheaded political views of others. I’m not talking about people who simply disagree with me, even though there are plenty of those. I’m talking about people whose beliefs are founded firmly and proudly on ignorance. Ignorance is curable, of course, so there is always hope for a conversion. If that ignorance is armed with cynicism, however, it can be impervious to reality and to logic. And that can be a problem for all of us.

I was confronted once again with this sad truth recently while listening to an interview by KQED producer Lacy Jane Roberts with her grandfather. His cynical position: “I don’t believe anything the news media say.” He delivered this declaration with a kind of smugness that suggested he had found some wisdom that was obvious. After all, he said, how can those so-called reporters be sure that what they are reporting is the truth?

Lacy didn’t press her grandfather on that point, even though she, as a reporter herself, was equipped to do so. Her mission with the interview, I think, was simply to present the phenomenon of the old boy’s mindset. So she didn’t ask him how he knew what was true or how he went about sorting fact from non-fact. He did volunteer that he only believed “information” that substantiated what he already believed. How he arrived at those original beliefs, however, was left unclear.

His mindset, however, was abundantly clear. Like so many of his fellow Trumpers, he watches Fox and gets more than enough support there for his boneheaded opinions. Fox, in turn, is happy to do its part. His views are not based on fact, and neither is their reporting (if one could call it that). He is a cynic, and he thrives on the cynicism of others.

Cynicism, it should be noted, is not a philosophy. Instead, it is an absence of philosophy, an admission of defeat, a last-ditch defense mechanism against fear and uncertainty. It signals, in the cynic, an unwillingness to form a coherent response to the world and instead to retreat into an utter distrust of everyone. It is not skepticism, either. Skepticism is a method of seeking the truth through examining the credibility of sources and applying logic.

Cynicism doesn’t seek truth; it denies it. It is nourished by laziness and fear, and these days, it can be dangerous — not just to the cynic, but to everyone. The coronavirus doesn’t care about truth; it just does what it does. It certainly doesn’t care if you believe it’s a hoax or an attack on the President or an asian super weapon. If you are cynical, then, and you do nothing to address the threat from the virus, you are much more likely to be infected by it. Your defense mechanism is powerless against it.

It might be interesting to reflect on the irony of that situation, but we don’t have that luxury. The laziness and fear of our cynical fellow citizens will also magnify the threat of the virus to the rest of us. The more infected people there are moving around out there in our society, the greater chances are that you or I will come down with it. The virus will not care if we have been careful or followed the advice of the CDC or listened to the experts. Consequently, Lacy’s grandpa and all the other boneheads will have to be part of the solution…even though they’re part of the problem.

Which only heightens the irony. But COVID-19 doesn’t care about irony either. So the most we can do is try to accept what happens, move forward…and try not to get cynical.
Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon