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COVID Crisis Post 29: Healthy Debate and the Importance of "Why?"

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

"This year has been extra." - Milica Marković

Extra, indeed. Wise words from one my closest and dearest friends.

And maybe my post will be viewed as "extra", but sometimes I just cannot help it 😅.

I have been asked by many regarding my thoughts on this pandemic. I have my viewpoints, and I try my best to explain the "why" behind those beliefs in a clear, intelligent manner with evidence to back it up when appropriate. This is the exact same approach in how I teach.

If a resident asks me a question, I never just answer the question. I always answer and then explain WHY that is my answer. If I tell a resident to do something, I always follow up with WHY I am asking them to do something. I approach clinical teaching like a math problem, and that's with deductive reasoning: providing the "proof" of how I got to my final answer is the best way for someone to understand "why" it is true or "why" the answer makes sense.

The "why" is the most CRUCIAL part in teaching in my view. And it is the most crucial part in MY learning as well. But in the time I have existed on this planet with any semblance of critical thinking, the "why" behind many peoples actions or beliefs seems to have gone missing. Many perform actions without understanding why they should them. Many believe things without understanding the reason for holding that belief. Critical thought is lost, and groupthink becomes dominant. And this is dangerous to society as a whole, and this is dangerous in our own personal relationships as well.

I intentionally have made a choice to not be controversial in any of my posts because the world of social media tends to not be a world where critical thinking is, uh, prominent, to put it kindly. I aim for logic, but as someone who is a free-thinking and emotional individual, my experiences, thoughts, and beliefs may lead me to a different conclusion than you. And vice versa. And you know what? THAT'S OKAY.

Human thought cannot be broken down into a simple math problem with one definitive answer. There is no one "proof" in almost anything in life where 100% of the world will understand, through deductive reasoning, why your final answer is correct. But taking that approach is the best way to approach communicating your beliefs.

And I wish for constructive, critical, and open-minded thought to be the overriding energy that dominates discourse. Because I want to learn and understand your beliefs, just as much as I want you to learn and understand where I am coming from.

Rarely is any extreme the best choice, whether in politics, relationships, behaviors, health policy, and anything else in life.

Anyone who states they "know" what we should be doing as a society, while bashing those who think otherwise are not critically thinking individuals. I would argue they are not thinking at all. To critically think, one need to be open-minded and take in all viewpoints, and then use deductive reasoning to explain ones views.

People are allowed to disagree. But we need to clearly state our thoughts in a manner in which everyone can understand, even if they do not agree. And if they still do not understand, then one needs to approach the conversation in a different way till they do.

This is how you communicate effectively.

So until we stop yelling at one another, pointing fingers, assigning blame, continue to play the victim, and start discussing things thoughtfully and civilly, our society as a whole will continue down a path of mediocrity.

I believe the above is true in almost every situation. There is rarely one true answer to anything in life, especially when the answer seems extreme. Including this pandemic.

MY beliefs: there is no magic cure for this disease. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. There are high-risk populations, and there are low-risk populations, but we are ALL at-risk. Social distancing forever is not the answer, just as going back to business as usual is not the answer either. Theories, conspiracy or not, stated without evidence besides hearsay is dangerous. And any sort of groupthink is dangerous.

I have stated the "why" behind my beliefs to most of the above in my previous posts. But I am open to any sort of disagreement, as long as it is done civilly, intelligently, and thoughtfully.

We need to be balanced and thoughtful during this pandemic. These are unprecedented times, but the mass disruption to our everyday lives is creating even more disruption on a larger, societal scale. And extreme thoughts, like death threats against leaders like Fauci, should never be viewed by anyone as OK, at least in a civilized society. Most people are doing what they believe is best in a dire situation. I think we can agree that most people do not want to see lives perish. And whether the reasons behind that are selfish or altruistic does not matter. Altruism does not bring one back from the brink of death.

It is okay to disagree with the choices our government and healthcare leaders have made, but do so intelligently with discussion points that substantiate your view. I personally enjoy engaging in these sorts of thoughtful discussions because I can learn so much from them.

So what can these sorts of conversations look like? I'll give you some personal examples.

Anyone who knows me knows my stance on vaccines. Vaccines save lives. When someone does not vaccinate themselves or their children, it disrupts me, to put it kindly. But you know what? I have a friend who does not believe in vaccinations. This does not make her stupid, even if I personally believe the decision to not vaccinate is stupid. Because she is a lovely, intelligent individual who is steadfast in her views and backs it up with her own "proof", just as I have my "proof" for why she is a lovely, intelligent individual irrespective of her views on vaccinations. I have passionately pleaded my point with her citing my reasons, and she has done the same. And I will continue to state my case should the topic ever come up but always with a thoughtful, critical approach because I cannot change a mind by insulting or annexing someone from my life.

When Donald Trump was elected president, my phone blew up with with friends angry and insulting the intelligence of those who voted for him. I am a moderate and independent. I did vote for Hilary Clinton because I chose who, in my opinion, was the better of two not-so-great choices, and my opinion has not changed since then.

But I did not and have not joined in the chorus of yelling and insults. I made a choice to try and understand the "why" behind peoples choice for Trump. Because I knew people who voted for him. Smart people. Thoughtful people. People who are not racist. Qualities many people believe are the opposite of those who would vote for him. And I spoke with them because I believe the best way for me to approach an alternate viewpoint is by first understanding the reasons behind those views.

But it is also important to create a safe space to have that discussion depending on the topic. EVERYONE present needs to be on the same page about being TRULY open-minded regarding others opinions; saying you are open-minded is not enough, and even I have my moments where I am too emotionally-charged to be so.

Self-awareness and being truthful to yourself is key.

I learned the importance of the safe space when one night I brought up a friend, one who did not know the rest of the group well or at all who we were with, had voted for Trump just as a "tease". Big mistake. She felt ostracized by my friends the rest of the night. She felt judged for her choice. No one was interested in understanding why she voted the way she did, and they assumed things about her character without even knowing her. Lesson learned. Her treatment did not create a space for her to consider others viewpoints because they were not interested in hers. So I learned something from that experience. And I try to teach others the importance of avoiding judgment, and the importance of understanding.

My last example (and believe me, I have MANY more) involved a girl I went on a date with a couple of years back. She was an Indian girl born and raised in Dallas who I discovered had moved to NYC the year Trump got elected because she could no longer live in a state that supported him. At the time of our date, she was actively campaigning for Beto O'Rourke during his run for Senate against Ted Cruz. Important note: I had NO idea she was political before I met her, and I usually find it is difficult to have any sort of civil discourse regarding politics without quickly exclaiming the other is a complete idiot if they disagree on a point.

And the rest of our date followed the above script as it consisted of her badmouthing anyone who voted for Trump. I tried to engage her in, you guessed it, intelligent and thoughtful discourse, as I was making various counterpoints to get her to think critically and find ways to communicate her viewpoint thoughtfully without insulting others. But she was truly incapable of doing so.

When I challenged her that there is a large segment of the population that feels the Democratic Party does not have their best interests in mind, her counterpoint was well we are smart and they are dumb, and they just need to listen and let the smart people make the decisions.

This person was making calls on Beto O'Rourke's behalf to try and convince those on the fence or Ted Cruz supporters to change their minds. I looked at her in disbelief.

And then I said the following: "Let me give you a piece of advice. I voted the same as you and generally hold similar beliefs in terms of policies. And even given all that, you have not convinced me at all why your viewpoints make sense, and if I was someone who was on the fence, you would have seriously convinced me to consider the opposing party."

Passion for something you believe in is great, but passion without substance is just being loud for the sake of being loud.

This is NOT effective communication.

And needless to say, she was not interested in having another date with me 😅😬.

Our society would be in much better shape if we approached one another thoughtfully from a place of kindness, intelligence, and willingness to listen to opposing thoughts. People would then be much more likely to listen, and this would create a beautiful spiral into exceptionality within society as a whole. Maybe this is a bit idealistic for this realist, but hey, I am allowed to have these moments.

So please, use your heart AND your brain. Our world would be a much better place if we all did so, even in these "extra" times.

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