Jumping Off the Death Train:
The Covid-19 Response Demands Critical Thinking
America’s fitful response to the Covid-19 pandemic is largely a study in what not to do. A long list of missteps reveals a dysfunctional relationship between the federal government and states, as well as colossal failures in preparedness, overall leadership, and, above all, critical thinking. This is of grave concern.
An unprecedented trifecta of medical, economic, and humanitarian crises is stretching our ability to avoid catastrophe and demands the power of critical thinking, something in short supply from irresponsible leaders and their followers.
What substitutes for critical thinking in much of our nation? Wishful thinking, magical thinking, muddled thinking, and like thinking.
· Wishful thinking
Everyone wishes for a Covid-19 vaccine. Researchers are on the case. But, wishful thinking is different, even dangerous.
President Trump touted a drug combo (hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin) as a Covid-19 cure. Problem: Side effects like death.
In February, Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, commented on the Covid-19 spread, “We have contained this,” dismissing the economic hit as “relatively minor.” Tell that to investors and to the 33 million newly unemployed.
· Magical thinking
Some think that praying for rain will make it happen. It is then no wonder that magical thinking clouds clear thinking when it comes to Covid-19.
Early on, President Trump told us that Covid-19 would disappear, like a “miracle.” But we are living in a real, not Biblical world.
In late March, despite CDC warnings, Bishop Gerald Glenn gathered his parishioners together to say, “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus.” Three weeks later, the Virginia pastor was dead of Covid-19. Faith was not a cure.
· Muddled thinking
Is the past prologue? Probably not. We are not reliving recent recessions or the Spanish flu of 1918. Globalization amplifies the challenges of Covid-19, as does its particularly contagious, still mysterious nature.
President Trump thinks that antibiotics work against a virus. They don’t, nor do false equivalencies and alternative facts.
President Trump opined that thousands get the flu, and “we don’t turn the country off.” But Covid-19 is much more lethal. In April, it became the leading cause of death in the U.S. with over 90,000 reported fatalities in about three months, a far higher rate than seasonal flu despite the first-ever order for social distancing.
· Like thinking
It’s tough finding solutions to pandemic-related problems and making life-and-death decisions. That’s why leaders should rely on evidence and experts. The antithesis is like thinking, sticking with the party line.
Eight governors have failed to issue stay-at-home orders, fighting for old-time states’ rights instead of against Covid-19. Critical thinkers put political party, religion, and tribal affiliation aside to make sound decisions.
Asked to grade his Covid-19 crisis management, Trump gave himself a perfect 10. The dead would disagree as might Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who recently suggested that lives could have been saved had we hunkered down sooner. This obvious truth immediately provoked a presidential retweet with a #Fire Fauci hashtag. Trump values like thinking, rewarding blind loyalty and punishing those who dare speak out.
Let’s jump off the death train of wishful, magical, muddled, and like thinking that would take us toward avoidable catastrophe. We can embrace critical thinking in our fight against Covid-19 by demanding:
· facts not faith
· scientific findings not anecdotal stories
· sound information not specious notions
· logical problem-solving not following “hunches”
· openness to new ideas not a fixed mindset
· inquiry not dogmatism
· clear delineation of what is known and what is not
· careful synthesis and objective analysis not off-the-cuff pronouncements.
Governed by science, logic, and reason, critical thinking could shape an intelligently crafted and evolving strategy to muster all available resources and delineate our respective roles throughout the country — government, the medical community, Wall Street, Main Street, the workforce, and the shelter-in-place folks too.
Whether Democrat or Republican, party officials hold power and responsibility, sometimes using their visibility to spread specious ideas. A hundred years ago, Democrat William Jennings Bryan railed against the theory of evolution, and today Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. rails against vaccination. On the Republican side, President Trump and his minions are on the hot seat right now. In fairness, blatant blunders aside, they would have been hard-pressed to perfectly navigate the Covid-19 maze.
Of course, there will always be politicians seeking election and media companies out for financial gain willing to intentionally deceive us or prey upon our worst instincts. Our best chance to control Covid-19 and re-start the economy rests with critical thinking. We must demand of ourselves and our leaders a commitment to apply logic and reason in decision-making, both personal and political. These dark days require no less as we weigh trade-offs against pay-offs and sacrifice against success.