Letter to the Editor: Hysteria

My ability to compose a coherent and apt metaphor in writing may be atrophied – I’m out of practice, and have that fried egg feeling in my head. I’ve been struggling to communicate with people lately, so maybe what I’m about to say doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it means.

Kipling’s If has been pestering me lately, mostly just the first bit:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you”

What’s the metaphor? A flashflood? A riot? A car fire? That’s it. The nature of the current discourse surrounding politics and social issues reminds me of fans setting cars afire in Chicago after the Bulls won in ’92.

Violent transformation sans substance. Patterns of swirling reaction.

Patrick Moore, former president of Greenpeace Canada, resigned from the organization when he found himself the only director with a formal education in science. In a speech given to the Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2015, he lamented that Greenpeace International had “abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism.” He would later add “misinformation, anti-humanism, and fear” to his condemnation of this anti-science brand of activism.

Regardless which side of the political aisle you feel most at home, you might think I’m decrying “the other side.” I’m not. Most everyone has lost their heads, as far as I can tell.

Just this week I’ve had friends use meaningless facts as the foundation for protest; read an opinion piece in which the writer, from a Marxist perspective, unironically argues that Communists would be proud of Trump; been part of a discussion in which everyone agreed that insurance was a scam and so the answer is obviously for the US government to compel everyone to buy it; been told that my opinion didn’t matter because I’m white, by a friend in a discussion about racism.

This doesn’t even touch upon the disconcerting nationwide crackdowns on free speech, led by, of all people, college kids.

What is most frightening to me about all this is not that there’s a fire. It’s that the fires are getting too hysterically large and out of control. Or that most of the political fires are burning improper fuel at best, at worst no fuel at all.

This is me pleading for calm and critical reasonability, in which the left and right can use conversation as the steel to hone their respective ideas.

We’ve got a nation full of activists, on all sides, with no interest in critical thinking. Meanwhile, the Patrick Moores of the world are vilified for holding the narrative accountable to science and reasoning. If facts don’t fit the narrative, and the narrative wins, you’re not fighting for truth and justice – you’re fighting for your ideology.

Scotty Watts

Baileys Harbor, Wis.