Poking Holes

I’m really trying to become a podcast person, but it’s hard to find options that are safe for frequent interruptions by my children (if you don’t have this issue, I recommend What’s My Motivation? by my siblings-in-law). I have started really looking forward to new releases from The Sharon Says So Podcast because they are overall uplifting and hopeful in tone but give my brain a bit of a workout as well.

Today I listened to a new episode featuring Jen Hatmaker, who I had to Google, to be honest, because we don’t run in the same circles. I recognized her name immediately but couldn’t place her, and while she may be a controversial figure to some, her message was solely about changing ideologies and she didn’t go into specifics about what exactly she changed her mind about, if that puts anyone at ease. To me, it didn’t matter at all what she believed before and what she believes now, because the message is the same whether you’re switching religions, political parties, or dry cleaners — if something seems off, ask questions.

The thing is, Jen felt that something seemed off, and the act of asking questions got her cancelled before she even found her answers. This happens all over the map and not just when taking a critical look at your long-held religious beliefs. When you’re part of a group with strong beliefs and one day you suggest a new idea you can get “cancelled” just for speaking up. I mean, former President Trump attended a rally of people who gathered just to see him, so arguably his biggest fans, and when he suggested they get vaccinated they booed him.

Not everyone has the megaphone for their speech that Trump possesses, but in the age of the internet an errant tweet can get you cancelled by folks that you once considered to be your people. Democrats who don’t want to abolish the police? Cancelled. Republicans who want schools to offer virtual learning? Cancelled. To assume that your vote on election day means you align with every word prominent party members tweet is ludicrous. Humans are varied and flawed and complicated and “othering” by either party is unhelpful.

To me, the key is to answer the questions. If your stance on anything under the sun cannot stand up to a little poking and prodding, then your house is built on sand. You can tell when folks realize their own ideologies are crumbling because they lash out at whomever poses the questions.

Science is a good example — you don’t get concrete answers from a scientist who isn’t sure. In order to get drugs approved or develop new treatments there is a huge amount of testing and researching and recording and statistical analysis that is going into each answer. If they don’t know, they say, “we don’t know.” I see a lot of people complaining that they aren’t being allowed to ask questions when there are updates in guidance around COVID-19. Of course you can ask questions! Thousands of questions were asked before that guidance was released, so there’s a good chance your question has been answered already, but sure! Science can stand up to poking and prodding. And, most importantly, science evolves when new questions are posed. Science is proceeding with the best information we have today. If tomorrow we discover that masks actually somehow give you bubonic plague, you’re darn tootin’ the scientists will show you their new information on that topic and insist everyone discard their face coverings.

We should all act a little more like scientists. If what we believe is so shaky that we can’t tolerate questions being asked of us, then perhaps that speaks to a problem with us, and with our beliefs, rather than a problem with the questions.

When the rallying cry is “abolish the police,” people in the party that’s doing the rallying aren’t allowed to ask what exactly that means, or what do we do about criminals if there are no police, and should we maybe do some test runs in smaller towns before we get rid of police in big cities, and do you mean all the police or do we keep the detectives or?

Jumping across the aisle, if the mantra is “no masks, no shots, just personal responsibility,” are we allowed to bring up that masks and shots are most effective when employed by everyone? And that many people are deciding not to be personally responsible? And that recent surges correspond to areas with low vaccination rates? The answer is no, you’re a RINO and the vaccine is the mark of the beast.

If you question, you’ll get labeled. If I were to ask for clarification, I’d be othered. Obviously if I don’t want to completely abolish the police without fully understanding what that would look like, I don’t think Black Lives Matter. If I want to know what we’re doing about hospital overcrowding in areas with low vaccination rates, I’m a fascist dictator intent on holding people down and vaccinating them against their will.

Now, what do I know, I’m just you’re average suburban lady voter, but it seems to me that answering questions honestly would strengthen your support in most cases. Give me the full picture. If we’re trying to raise the minimum wage or make all higher education free, let’s not pretend there won’t be any consequences like higher taxes or adding to the country’s debt. If you’re selling the public a multi-billion dollar wall on the border, don’t paint the picture that it will make the US as secure as a bank vault. Walls can be scaled, and it’s really only going to slow folks down a little, and some parts of the border will never have a wall because the geography doesn’t allow for it. Once you’re elected and you try and do some of the stuff you promised to do, people are going to be really mad when the fine print shows up.

It seems like the general public isn’t all that interested in facts or specifics, but I think that’s reasonable in a lot of cases. We have experts for a reason! We don’t want to be responsible for doing the real research ourselves, and unless we are professionals, we shouldn’t. We ask economists about the economy, we asks vets to heal our dogs, we ask bakers to make our wedding cakes, and dentists to fill our cavities. I’m not talking about “doing your research” the way folks on the fringe talk about it, when they really mean “I watched this YouTube video that told me to take horse de-worming pills.” That shits all over actual research being done by experts in every field. If you ignore facts, that’s worse than being ignorant of facts. Ask your questions, but heed the answers.

There’s nothing wrong with being skeptical, especially when it comes to new ideas (for the record, mRNA vaccine research began in the early 1990s so it’s not actually new). When people don’t find the answers they want to hear, they push themselves away from the main stream to find reassurance in like-minded folks, and social media algorithms suggest similar content they might enjoy, and then in a month you’ve gone from “I’m not sure what an mRNA vaccine is” to “and that’s why the deep state wants us all the get vaccinated with a chip from Bill Gates and eat pizza that’s actually made of the blood of innocent children.”

There’s certainly a sense of personal pride at stake when having our ideologies pulled apart and examined, but we should be willing to have it all turned inside out and laid bare, because we could actually be wrong. There are a lot of things I don’t know, and a lot of beliefs I hold that I cannot expertly defend, but I’m absolutely willing to admit that up front. But if, for example, you feel that sharing unflattering facts about the founding fathers will make people hate their country, what does that say about your own faith? Is your love of America so fragile that retelling the full truth of our history would make you feel ashamed? That sounds like a problem with your ideology, and not with the facts.

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