Everyone these days loves to vilify the government and media. And there are good reasons for this. With perceived government corruption at an all-time high and fake news a growing concern, it’s hard to trust these institutions. But it’s important to remember that the government and media are not wholly good or evil. Some branches of government may be more corrupt than others. Some media outlets may be more accurate and unbiased.
With so many shades of grey, it can sometime be difficult to separate the good from the bad. Certainly, it is much easier to just put everything under a blanket statement of “good” or “bad”. However, taking such a simplistic approach can hinder the good while letting the bad flourish. Luckily, we can separate the bad from the good by letting facts, science, and empathy guide us – upholding good government policies and sharing accurate news, while condemning bad government action and misinformation.
Portland and COVID: A case study
With over 185,000 deaths in the U.S. and nearly 900,000 deaths worldwide, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has been devastating. Luckily, scientists around the globe – transcending borders, governments, and corporations – have seen ample evidence that masks and social distancing make a huge difference in its spread (see just a few sources from across the globe here, here, here, here, here, and here). Based on the fact that masking and social distancing policies reduce the impact of COVID-19 and are minimally intrusive, it can be said that these are sound policies that don’t warrant protest, concern, or outrage.
Contrast this now with federal intervention in protests around the U.S. – often despite local and state governments saying their help isn’t wanted. In Portland, for instance, unidentifiable masked federal agents essentially kidnapped peaceful American citizens off the streets and held them without cause in unknown locations. This is in flagrant violation of the Constitution and poses an extreme and real threat to American liberties and freedoms. In this instance, people should be incredibly concerned. They should be protesting. They should be demanding change. (It is worth noting that, due to pressure, the federal government did eventually step back.)
Lead with compassion
When all else fails, it helps to lead with compassion over all else. Ask yourself: Does this government policy or media piece help or hurt people?
• The government is trying to save thousands of lives, at minimal impact to me? Given the evidence, I should heed their advice and help my fellow Americans.
• The government is kidnapping American citizens? I should not let this stand and need to protest their actions.
• The media is warning me about government corruption? Given the evidence, I should vote differently in the next election.
• The media is blaming minorities for our problems? That doesn’t actually flow from any actual evidence, so I shouldn’t buy into it.
Or, simply: If it helps people, I should do my part as an American to support this government policy or listen to this news article. If it hurts people, I should do my part as an American to oppose this government legislation or combat this misinformation.