The Digital Acceleration of Herd Mentality

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

It’s a memorable, often quoted line from the 1997 sci-fi comedy, Men in Black, where Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) explains to his apprentice (Will Smith) why it would be a very bad idea to reveal to the public that space aliens are living secretly among them.

While there are many great one-liners in the film (that still draw a laugh), that particular one has been remembered for the inherent, societal truth it spoke. When an individual alone is presented with new, consequential information, that person is more likely to process it logically and rationally than if he or she had consumed it in a group setting.

This paradox goes by lots of different names, but for the sake of this column, I’ll use the term herd mentality.

Herd mentality is a product of peer influence. It compels people to adopt behaviors and sentiment, not from autonomous reason, but from the passion and emotions of those who surround them. These emotions, in turn, lead to impulsive (and often bad) decisions that wouldn’t have otherwise been made.

It’s been pretty easy to spot herd mentality throughout this nation over the past few months, most graphically in the rioting, looting, and vandalism we’ve seen in major U.S. cities. What began as protests in the name of social justice have turned into an excuse to spread violence, destroy businesses, and destroy lives.

We’ve also seen it with the uptick in the cancel culture, where dissenting, objectionable views are increasingly treated as infectious diseases deserving of eradication.

And we’ve of course seen it in the way mask-wearing (to mitigate the spread of COVID-19) has been turned into a ridiculous culture war, with one side insisting that it’s a heinous violation of their freedoms.

Herd mentality has a far wider reach today than even 20 or 25 years ago because of the virality and boundlessness of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle. In virtually no time at all, something as simple as a contextless image or video clip can create and accelerate a deeply misleading narrative among a population.

We were reminded of a pretty famous example of this last week with the settlement of Nicholas Sandmann’s defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post. Sandmann was the kid we all remember wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in front of the Lincoln Memorial, “smirking” as a Native American man (Nathan Phillips) beat a drum and sang a chant just inches from his face. The two were surrounded by other students from Sandmann’s school, who joined in with the chant, smiling and laughing.

I would argue (and did at the time) that a smart, reasonable person watching that video for the first time — even if he or she had a preconceived notion of someone who would wear a MAGA hat — would want to know more about the incident before forming an opinion of what they were seeing. A reasonable person would wonder (not merely assume) what it was that brought those people together, and why they were acting as they were.

But blasted across the Internet at light-speed, filtered through the political instincts of millions, and recklessly reported on by media outlets (who suffer from their own form of groupthink), Sandmann quickly became a national poster-child for racial intolerance. Even after the facts came to light, and it was clear Sandmann hadn’t done anything wrong or even inappropriate, herd mentality kept many from ever accepting that truth.

Another example from last week had to do with the aforementioned war on protective masks. Dr. Anthony Fauci was the target this time, after he threw out the first pitch at the MLB season opener. Fauci, who has been vilified by many on the right for putting forth COVID-era health recommendations that are often politically and economically unhelpful, was later captured in the stands by photographers not wearing a mask.

Being that Fauci has been expressing the importance of masks for months (while acknowledging that he downplayed it in the early days of the health crisis out of a supply concern for medical professionals treating the infected), detractors decided that the photographs had exposed the effectiveness of masks (which has been proven in study after study) to be a hoax:

It didn’t take long before I saw these same photos (accompanied by the same sentiment) popping up all over my Facebook feed.

Fauci’s a fraud!

Look, even he knows masks don’t work!

Why do I have to wear a mask if he doesn’t have to?

I suspect it’s not coincidence that this stuff came from the same friends and acquaintances who’ve been insisting from the beginning that COVID-19 is no biggie, and that every societal sacrifice (or even mere inconvenience) we’ve endured for the health crisis has been based on a delusion created by the power-hungry elite. Even as tens of thousands of new cases of the virus are reported each day, with the death count now around 150,000, these folks keep feeding the narrative to each other, and stoking conspiratorial doubt in others.

As a different buddy said to me, about the reactions to the Fauci photos, “Don’t you love how people suddenly can’t discern any obvious details when they smell a gotcha?”

As Agent K might respond, “A person would pick up on the details… but people? Not so much.

Those “obvious details,” in this case, would include the fact that Fauci and his two companions were outside (where the virus is far less transmissible), that no one else was seated around them (aka socially distanced), that the woman to his left was his wife (who he lives with and breathes the same air as every day), and that the friend to his right was still wearing a mask.

Additionally, a reasonable person might also consider the length of time Fauci was without his mask. Could it have been just a few seconds, perhaps right before or after he took a swig from that water bottle pictured on his lap? According to Fauci, that’s exactly what happened. He also revealed that he had tested negative for COVID-19 just a day earlier.

But when people are frustrated or scared (as many of us are right now), herd mentality impedes the ability of individuals to take a step back, and look at things in an open-minded, rational way. Perhaps this is why Fauci, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, and the CDC felt they couldn’t be upfront with the general public about masks when they were concerned about shortages in March. I still think it was the wrong thing to do, and created unnecessary confusion (that’s unfortunately still being used by others as political propaganda), but perhaps I’m a little more sympathetic to their predicament than I once was.

Regardless, what makes herd mentality on the Internet particularly concerning right now is that, with physical gatherings remaining potentially dangerous for the foreseeable future, the pre-existing cultural trend of social media replacing our traditional institutions has been accelerated. Many of the more focused organizations and establishments in our lives, that bring us together and keep us grounded (whether it be church, sports, live music, community celebrations, etc.) are on indefinite hold. That means people are spending more time online, latching onto viral themes and joining righteous revolts against all kinds of perceived injustices.

It’s not healthy, and in several cases (some described above), it’s contributing to the prolonging of this crisis by promoting reckless behavior that only adds to the spread of the coronavirus.

If there were ever a time when people (especially those with time on their hands) needed to further explore their own individuality, it’s right now. Maybe that means taking up a new hobby, going on some camping trips, or doing some (safe) volunteering in the community.

If it keeps people from subjecting themselves to countless hours of social media and cable news, it’s almost certainly a good thing.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!




Socially Distant Without the Stir-Craziness

Sunset at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis (photo by John Daly)

Last week, my son and I saw our first movie at a theater in months, and boy was it a breath of fresh air. Of course, it wasn’t a typical theater… being that nearly all of those are still closed, and it wasn’t a new movie… being that production companies aren’t currently releasing anything outside of digital and streaming services. In fact, the aforementioned fresh air was of the literal sense, flowing through our open car windows at a drive-in theater about 45 minutes from our house.

Yes, there are still some operating drive-ins in this country, and they’ve even seen a surge in popularity in the socially-distant era of COVID-19. After all, they’re outside (where the virus has a harder time spreading) and it’s easy to stagger parking spots to give each car about 10 feet of separation.

At the Holiday Twin in Fort Collins, CO, we watched one of our all-time favorites, Jaws (which incidentally turned 45 years old this year).

The ambiance was really pretty special, and it went well beyond the nostalgia and timeless aura of the film (which ironically displays some remarkable parallels with today’s crisis, and how people are treating it). Just seeing folks enjoying and reacting to a shared summer experience from the back of pickups and hatchbacks was a treat. I’d even describe it as rejuvenating, which I suppose makes sense considering how socially limited we’ve become.

The restrictive nature of the coronavirus is something we’ve been grappling with as a nation since March, and as it lingers on and intensifies in some states, even those lucky enough to have kept their jobs and preserved their livelihoods have felt isolated and grown a bit stir-crazy from the monotony.

People need a break from the repetition, and a good remedy is to get outside and enjoy a change of scenery. It’s summertime after all, and with the season comes opportunities that didn’t exist in the early days and weeks of the health crisis.

A drive-in movie is a great distraction (which I highly recommend), and in downtown areas across the country, restaurants are being allowed to extend their dining areas to sidewalks and even roped off streets in front of their buildings. These are good (and relatively safe) escapes, but a longer more sustainable kind comes compliments of nature itself.

Weeks ago, when my family recognized that flying out of state and staying in a hotel probably wouldn’t be a viable vacation option this year, we took a step back and finally pulled the trigger on buying a pop-up camper. The one we found (on Craigslist) wasn’t anything fancy. It was over 20 years old, and had some expected wear and tear, but it was nothing we couldn’t live with. Over a few weekends, we spruced it up, and made our maiden voyage in early June with a simple, socially-distant overnight in Colorado’s high country.

Things went well (that’s another way of saying nothing broke and no one got hurt), so we got back on the road this week (packing some extra masks), and headed for the rugged, dryer, southern part of the state for a few nights. We set up camp near the Royal Gorge, a deep canyon of the Arkansas River that supports the highest bridge in the United States. Since it’s a suspension bridge, it rocks a bit from the wind as you walk across it (which I wont lie, was a little unnerving).

 

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We then headed farther south to a little-known place called Bishop’s Castle. This amazing, one-man, lifelong project (started in the 1960s) is surrounded by the mountains of the San Isabel National Forest. It’s an unorthodox, artistic, housing-code-violating, true testament to power of individualism and personal dedication. And frankly, standing in the wind on top of its highest, uneven tower (which can’t be more than 8 feet in diameter) was more breathtaking than peering over the railing at the Royal Gorge Bridge.

Making our way east, we spent a night at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve, which I’d heard a lot about as a kid, but had never been to. Immersing ourselves in such a surreal, middle-of-nowhere landscape (nearly 30 square miles of tall dunes) was an experience we’ll never forget. The sunset alone (pictured up top) may have been worth the trip.

And since the area down south is also known for its extraordinary number of unidentified flying objects, we of course felt obligated to check out the “world famous” UFO Watchtower (which I’m still trying to make sense of).

 

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There’s more I could share, but the point I’m trying to make is that it was a cheap getaway, it made for a much-needed scenic change, it was good exercise, and I can count on one hand the number of times we came within 6 feet of another person.

In other words, you can stay safe without letting COVID-19 call all the shots.

It’s been a few years since I’ve read Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing, so my memory could be slightly off, but I believe he makes the point in the novel that the ability to travel is its own form of personal property — something that others can’t take away from you, not in a country like the United States. Of course, there are limits to this, especially in the modern era, but generally speaking McCarthy has a point.

Travel isn’t a luxury only afforded to rich people. A tent, some food and water, a little extra time on your hands, and the means to get from one place to another is really all it takes. There’s ownership in that.

Right now, in this troublesome era we’re slogging through, getting outdoors and going somewhere new (as long as you can do it safely) is perhaps one of the more liberating experiences you’ll find.

It sure was for my family.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

 




Off the Cuff: How Class Warfare Plays Into the Shutdown Protests

Those protesting government shut-down orders aren’t so much driven by politics as they are perspective. That’s the topic of my new “Off the Cuff” audio commentary.

You can listen to it by clicking on the play (arrow) button below.

 

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No, Masks Aren’t Part of an Anti-Trump Conspiracy

Those who follow me on Twitter know that one of my irritations with the government response to the COVID-19 crisis was the early insistence from the Surgeon General and CDC that wearing masks (that cover the nose and mouth) was completely ineffective at protecting people from the coronavirus. At times, there was even the suggestion that doing so was counterproductive.

The narrative didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the time. After all, we were talking about a respiratory disease. And it’s not as if wearing a mask around infected people to block the spread of germs was a new or uncommon practice. It’s been done all over the world since before any of us were born.

As it turned out, the government was indeed being disingenuous. Dishonest is the better word.

At the time, federal agencies were concerned with a national shortage of medical-style masks for our country’s health care workers (who would be treating an increasing number of coronavirus patients). If regular folks had gobbled them all up, the problem would have gotten much worse. Thus, the answer was a disinformation campaign designed to discourage consumers from buying them.

It apparently worked. And in late March, as infection rates skyrocketed and our national strategy switched from containment to mitigation, the CDC reversed itself. The agency began recommending that everyone cover their face when out among others.

While I’m sympathetic to the situation the government was in, outright lying to Americans was a bad move. It assuredly kept people who already had masks from wearing them, as well as removed any incentive for people to make their own masks, or even wear something as simple as a bandana when they left their home.

Masks aren’t as effective as social distancing, but they do put up a barrier between the droplets that fly out of people’s mouths (when they talk, cough, or sneeze) and individuals within close proximity, which is a common transmission route of COVID-19.

In other words, masks do provide some protection for people. One can only wonder how much slower the virus’s spread could have been, had Americans understood weeks earlier the benefits of wearing them.

Anyway, that fiasco is behind us. Most Americans now get that masks are helpful. Unfortunately, some popular right-wing political commentators seem to want to take us backwards on the issue.

Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence took a good amount of criticism over a trip he made to the Mayo Clinic. News footage of a meeting with medical workers and patients revealed that Pence, unlike everyone else on camera, wasn’t wearing a mask. This amounted to a violation of Mayo’s health policies.

Unsurprisingly, Trump defenders in the media felt inclined to defend Pence. And the only way to defend a guy not wearing a mask, in a medical facility that requires masks, is to discount the notion that masks are even important in the first place.

Fox News’s Laura Ingraham was up for the task.

On her show Wednesday night, Ingraham explained that “social control over large populations is achieved through fear and intimidation and suppression of free thought. Conditioning the public through propaganda is also key, new dogmas replace good old common sense.”

Ironically, Ingraham wasn’t referring to the dishonesty campaign I described above, where federal officials under the Trump administration fooled Americans into believing masks were of no benefit in our battle against the coronavirus. No, she was instead taking aim at members of the mainstream media who criticized Pence for his negligence.

“They’ll say this whole mask thing is settled science, just like they do with climate change,” Ingraham said. “Of course, it’s not and they know it. Our own experts have gone from ‘masks aren’t necessary’ to ‘masks are essential, you have to wear them when you go jogging’ in just a few weeks’ time.”

Of course, Ingraham had it somewhat backwards. It wasn’t “settled science” that compelled federal officials to tell us that “masks aren’t necessary.” It was supply and demand concerns. Medical science didn’t factor into it at all. And that’s unfortunate, because if these people had presented the settled science to the public, I think Americans would have been better prepared for the crisis, and our country would be in a better position right now.

As for telling people that masks are “essential,” and that they must be worn while jogging, I’m not sure which “experts” Ingraham is referring to. I’ve certainly heard recommendations, from officials like President Trump himself, that Americans should wear masks when they’re out in public (as in close to other people). And that guidance, as I described above, makes perfect sense. But I haven’t heard any dire warnings about a need for joggers to wear masks — not if they’re maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others. It sounds to me like Ingraham was just tossing out a straw man there.

Regardless, Ingraham thinks she knows the real reason for why masks are now being widely promoted, and to explain it she quoted (or perhaps summarized) something Rush Limbaugh recently said on his radio show:

“The virus itself, as it weakens and states start reopening… The media that has been selling this panic, panic, panic for weeks and weeks and weeks — they have fewer images to sell their hysteria to justify continued lockdowns. But the masks, they’re kind of a constant reminder… You see the masks, and you think you’re not safe. You are not back to normal, not even close.”

Well there you have it, I guess. Masks aren’t being hyped because they block contagious droplets from noses and mouths. It’s because of some U.S. media conspiracy to end capitalism, or to end Trump’s presidency, or maybe both! And the conspiracy is so far-reaching that the rest of the world is doing it too!

I’m sorry, but this is just plain stupid. Worse than that, it’s dangerous. Millions of people watch Ingraham’s show every weeknight (along with the rest of Fox News’s prime-time lineup), and they buy into a lot of such nonsense.

Most of these viewers are rather old, and therefore are at a particularly high risk of serious health complications (and even death) if they get the virus. Why on earth would anyone who values the human condition be suggesting to them that they (or those around them) are contributing to our country’s economic ruin, and the unseating of a president they like, just by taking the simple preventative measure of wearing a mask?

Is defending a gaffe by Mike Pence really worth convincing our most vulnerable citizens to take unnecessary chances with their health and the health of others? Are the ratings spawned by tribal politics and our grievance culture really that important?

Unfortunately, I think I know the answer to both questions.

 




The Coronavirus Culpability of Ordinary Citizens

When I was a kid growing up in Colorado, my family did a lot of camping. We had a Starcraft pop-up trailer that we’d pull behind my father’s Chevy pickup, and throughout the summer we’d make weekend trips up to the mountains — sometimes by ourselves and sometimes with other families.

One particular camp-out I remember was to Grand Lake, a few hours northwest of where we lived. The area is home to the state’s largest natural body of water. We met some neighbors up there, and we stayed a couple nights on a nice patch of shore. On the second day, those neighbors were kind enough to let my me and my older brother use their aluminum canoe to venture onto the lake.

My mother wasn’t crazy about the idea. She was notoriously overprotective of her boys, but I was probably in the 5th grade by then, and the water was calm enough that she eventually caved in to our pleas. Once our life vests were on and given the parental once-over, we set sail.

I was in the bow, and my brother took the stern. Each of us had a wooden oar that we used to put some distance between ourselves and the shore. Our parents had told us not to go beyond a certain point (which was a bit ambiguous, being that there weren’t any markers, but we had the general idea).

Over the next 20 minutes or so, we roamed around in the water, staying within view of our campsite. At one point, we apparently floated out a little farther than our mother was comfortable with. She stood up from her lawn chair in front of the campfire, and motioned us back toward the campsite with her arm.

“She wants us to come in closer,” I told my brother.

“Okay,” he acknowledged.

We both began rowing, but after 30 seconds or so, I realized we weren’t getting anywhere. Worried we were caught in some kind of tide (an oddity for a lake), I turned around in my seat to better assess the situation. That’s when I spotted my brother rowing backwards, in the opposite direction. He wore a big grin on his face as he did.

“Okay, quit screwing around,” I told him, watching our mother’s arms swinging harder from the shore.

“Okay, okay,” he answered with a chuckle.

We began rowing again, and it didn’t take long before I noticed that we still weren’t making any headway. When I turned my head again, I saw that he was again rowing backwards. He broke into laughter, enjoying the expression on my face.

“Knock it off!” I shouted at him.

By now, our mother was beginning to panic. She yelled at us from the shore, jumping up and down and swinging her arms like a windmill.

For a reason I still can’t explain to this day, my brother wasn’t phased at all. He could tell (as I could) that our mother was losing it (and that was never a good situation for anyone), but to him everything was still fun and games. He laughed while I cursed him out, and when I angrily began rowing again, he — once again — worked against me.

I was at my wits’ end, and I let him know it with a fair amount of name-calling. If I hadn’t been afraid of capsizing us, I would have taken a swing at his head with my oar.

Well, our mother had finally reached her snapping point. Between our perceived inability to work our way back in, and our distorted, verbal commotion echoing across the lake, she was convinced her sons were in imminent danger. Maybe she thought we were sinking, or perhaps she feared one of us was injured. Regardless, she began running along the circular shore to get closer to us, frantic in her movements. Other adults joined in. Soon we had three people sprinting to our “rescue.”

The sight brought my brother back to reality. Realizing what he had triggered, he finally cooperated and rowed normally. We made our way to the nearest shoreline (where the adults were headed). There, I tried to explain what happened, but our mother didn’t want to hear it. As far as she was concerned, we’d had our chance and we’d blown it. Seeing that neither of us was injured, and that we weren’t taking on water, she deemed us both incompetent and incapable of navigating a canoe. She then subjected us to the humiliation of having to sit idly inside the canoe as she got in and rowed the three of us back to our campsite (where we were forbidden for the rest of the weekend from taking the canoe out again).

I’ve been thinking about that story lately, because I’ve been noticing some parallels between it and a national debate we’re currently having about the COVID-19 health crisis — specifically in regard to the economic considerations.

In order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many state governors have temporarily shut down “non-essential” businesses and issued stay-at-home orders to citizens. The economic impact has been devastating, from stocks tanking, to small businesses struggling to make rent and payroll, to 25 million people filing for unemployment, to a likely recession.

Thus, some Americans are demanding (their sentiment echoed by members of the right-wing media) that their governors immediately rescind their safety orders and, for the sake of people’s livelihoods, “re-open this economy!”

Still, poll after poll shows that most Americans (by a strong majority) support these safety measures, believing them to be a necessary burden for the time being. And there’s plenty of data that validates their concerns.

Though COVID-19 death estimations have been scaled downward in recent weeks (and that’s a very good thing), the fact of the matter — as National Review’s John McCormack points out — is that the coronavirus killed more Americans in one month than the flu kills in a year. And that was with unprecedented lock-downs and extreme social distancing across the country.

Imagine how many more Americans would have died if such measures hadn’t been taken.

Unfortunately, sincere passion on both sides of the debate has spawned shallow and reckless accusations, mostly along the lines of one side not caring about the suffering and concerns of the other. Here are a couple of examples:

While there’s certainly a point to be made about different people’s perspectives, and who has “skin in the game” in regard to this crisis (as Michael Frankel wrote about in a thoughtful piece on this website), successfully navigating this pandemic requires a more nuanced approach than the most enthusiastic voices on either side are putting forth. Portraying the other side as monsters for their differing views achieves nothing but additional anger.

As this pertains to my canoe story (and you’re forgiven for not seeing the connection yet), it seems to me that an extraordinary amount of progress could be made under the current conditions, or even under evolving conditions, if we could at least get everyone to row in the same direction.

Last month, the president and governors alike were framing the need for extreme social distancing as a two-week initiative. Sure, there were some variations across the nation (with some leaders’ rules sounding more open-ended than others), but the basic idea was that if every citizen could do their best to stay away from others for 14-days, it would go a long way toward essentially “starving out” the coronavirus, and keeping or medical institutions from becoming overwhelmed. The science, in regard to the infection and recovery periods, backed that up.

Of course, the plan was never going to be a perfect or absolute solution due to communication hurdles, learning curves, and a mental and logistical unpreparedness to deal with such a stark change. (The mixed messages from our elected leaders and governmental departments certainly didn’t help).

But now that we’re several weeks in, it’s pretty clear that the adjustment has taken us much longer than it should have. And we as a society have run out of excuses.

Many of us have done what has been asked of us. We’ve followed the restrictions and altered how we work and live. We’ve sacrificed (some more deeply than others) for the common good. In other words, we’ve done (and continue to do) our part to row the canoe back to the shore.

Unfortunately, too many others still haven’t taken the health crisis seriously, or at least as seriously as they should. They’ve trivialized the situation, not because of a principled objection to the effort, but rather a certain level of situational unawareness. This has rolled back (or perhaps rowed back) some of our gains. All the jumping up and down from the government shoreline has brought us a certain level of success, but not to the extent we’d hoped for. Thus further restrictions have been imposed.

I should note that as a conservative, I tend to resist using metaphors in which elected leaders play the role of our parents, but in the rare context of a legitimate public health crisis, the comparison is somewhat appropriate.

The division between the forward rowers from the backward rowers doesn’t exactly line up with that of the “wait on the economy” and “open the economy now” crowds (though I’m sure it would make for an interesting Venn diagram). As such, I’m not making a pro-quarantine vs. pro-business argument, or even putting forth a public policy critique.

To me, this is largely a personal responsibility issue — those responsibilities being: keep your distance from others (especially those who are high-risk), wear a mask when you have to be close to others, practice good hygiene, and stay home when your sick.

It seems so simple, but it’s been a real slog.

Case in point, I live in Greeley, Colorado. It’s in Weld County, a little over an hour north of Denver. Weld currently has the highest COVID-19 infection rate of any county in the state. And Greeley, which makes up a very small geographic portion of the county, accounts for more than 75% of those infections.

You would think that everyone here would be awfully concerned about the situation, and quite cautious in how they conduct themselves in public. But, to my amazement, I’m still seeing an alarming number of people having casual (and physically close) conversations with others. At the grocery stores, most customers still aren’t wearing masks, or in any way covering their nose and mouth, as they brush against each other along narrow aisles. In some restaurant carry-out lines, I’m still seeing people standing just a couple feet apart.

And I’m not convinced Greeley is an exception. I hear these same stories from friends and acquaintances across the country, even in major cities that have been hit hard. While a lot of people are being careful, a lot still aren’t. Again, there’s no ill-intent (in most cases); it’s more of a social disconnect. But it’s harmful nonetheless, and it is postponing our return to relative normalcy.

If we had all done our part during those first couple weeks (or by the third week, or by the fourth week, etc.), we could have started responsible re-openings sooner. We could have spared medical professionals, business owners, and other workers a good amount of chaos. We could have kept a lot of tensions from ever boiling over, and begun our economic recovery sooner.

But we failed in that respect. We’ll get there eventually, but the societal hardships and fears have intensified. And when that happens, patience runs out. People are inclined to fall back on their tribal instincts, casting those who don’t see eye-to-eye with them as villains. Lines are drawn in the sand, and respect for order and authority diminishes.

But pinning the problem on those in authority isn’t entirely fair — not in this particular situation. The global pandemic is no more the fault of our leaders than it is our citizens. How those leaders have responded to the crisis, on the other hand, is absolutely subject to criticism. And for that same reason, ordinary citizens deserve their share of criticism too.

Because sometimes — just sometimes — the problem is coming from inside the canoe.