Thursday, May 14, 2020

Cognitive Dissonance

Among those who disapprove of County Executive Calvin Ball’s decision to delay the Phase One reopening in Howard County, comments like these are typical:

He's just punishing us. Typical democrat.

Why on earth?

He’d be making himself and his administration look great if he said we were ready and went forward at this point. Making the hard choice based on the data we have is hardly punishing  anyone. What evidence do we have that Ball is the “punishing” sort? Is this perhaps based on the simplistic notion that quarantine “rewards” the portion of the population that favors staying home and “punishes” those who reject the authority of public health restrictions?

Whether you favor a more measured approach or think it’s time to “get going” again, we all share something in common. If you or a family member were to get sick right now, really sick, you would want to receive the care and medical expertise of a doctor. If the illness were severe you would surely turn to hospital care. And yet if the evidence and advice coming from medical professionals about Covid-19 isn’t to some folks’ liking, they dismiss it as lies or propaganda.

You can’t have it both ways. If, in your heart, you know you would entrust your care (or your family’s) to medical professionals, then that is your vote of confidence in their competence. You wouldn’t go to national politicians, or network pundits. It would do you no earthly good.

As an aside, this feels very much to me like people who say they have the utmost respect for the knowledge and skill set of teachers right up until teachers articulate what is needed to do their work and then they dismiss the entire profession as “union thugs.” But, that’s another story altogether.

Governor Hogan has put individual counties in a difficult position by moving forward at the State level while saying that decisions by county are up to them. Whether he intends it or not, it sets up a false competition of sorts between “his” evidence and “their” evidence. That’s not how epidemiology works. This is especially troubling in a national environment where a president sets a tone where there is “his” truth, and his “enemies’” truth which extends even to public health decisions.

It is maddening to me to see choices on how to care for our communities being reduced to partisan politics. For instance, one does not wear a mask in public because one is a Democrat. The wearing of a mask is to slow the spread of disease. Similarly, the desire to open up our county, state, and nation  so that children can return to school, people can return to work, and life can be “normal” again is not the intellectual property of Republicans.

This line of thinking is unhealthy for everyone.

If you believe in medical science, then listen to public health guidelines based on medical science. If you don’t, I am assuming you don’t use doctors or hospitals. I think that’s a terrible idea, because we don’t all live on little islands and our decisions do have an impact on others. And it could also mean needless suffering for you and your family.

County Executive Ball is making a difficult choice in a difficult time because it is his responsibility to see the big picture and make wise decisions which he knows will have long term consequences. It can be hard when we are in our own little bubbles, worried about our individual circumstances, to accept that there is a bigger reality than our own.

But there is a bigger reality, whether we like it or not. The disease, along with the capabilities and limitations of our health care system, are completely unaffected by whether we believe in them or not.  Without a vaccine, without a reliable treatment protocol, any decision to relax physical distancing is a risk. You may mostly be concerned about your risk. Leaders have to be concerned about everyone’s risk.

If they’re not, they’re not leaders.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.