Readers comments 3-26-21
Hurray for the return of athletics!
I’m writing to share my excitement that sports in the Claremont area are back! I believe it’s been far too long that athletes in the area have not gotten the chance to do what they’ve loved on their respective fields, but I am excited now that student-athletes have been given a chance to compete. It makes one think that sports at The Claremont Colleges may have been a possibility all this time with safe protocols in place, but I guess we will never know this year. Thank you again for your support and coverage of Claremont High athletics!
COVID? What COVID?
I continue to be annoyed by the lack of seriousness with which significant numbers of people take COVID-19, especially in the context of American deaths now over 540,000 and counting. A recent item in the L.A. Times reported that young people were leading virus cases in Los Angeles. While 70% were people under 50, 93% of deaths were people over 50. Could all this be the result of decades of marketing that promotes instant gratification at all costs? A new “Me Generation” that assumes there is always a silver bullet solution just around the corner for every problem so why deprive oneself of anything?
Are we, perhaps, becoming even more anti-science as a nation? Do we only believe in things we can see and touch, making a virus something too hard to grasp? Do the young think that death is something that involves only people “way older”? Whatever the root causes, including, sadly, the politicization of COVID, I nonetheless feel a sense of hope now that things are opening up again, looking forward, for example, to going back to my favorite Laemmle theaters in Claremont, to safely dining indoors with established protocols in place, etc.
But spring break partiers, among others who love to tempt fate by their behavior, could really put a dent in the progress achieved. I recall my older relatives talking about the sacrifices and rationing that went on during World War II, in which the country rallied around a shared goal and, in the process, created a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, in the divided America of 2021, I will probably be wearing a mask long after the “masks optional” signs go up.
La Verne, CA
Theatre in our schools
In our modern day school system, there can be few options for learning important skills. Many different curricula are taught, but practically none are able to fully capture what it is like to try to create something valuable in the real world. However, theatre is completely able to fill this hole. Through theatre, students can experience firsthand the rigors of planning, organizing, and managing large projects that will be seen by hundreds of their classmates. Very few other options, especially in high school, provide that same kind of opportunity. Recently, the coronavirus pandemic has brought many programs to a halt, further limiting the options for students to explore the world around them. Theatre, however, has not been stopped despite this massive event. Instead it has adapted, changed to fill whatever role it can in our new environment. It has pushed through the many challenges that we have been forced to face, and come out ahead. Thanks to a combination of determined teachers, students, and helpful alumni we have been able to succeed. This proves the vitality of theatre as an artform, and the ingenuity of its creators. It seems the phrase “The show must go on!” still holds true, even during a global pandemic.
This month is Theatre In Our Schools month, or TIOS, and as such this is an important time for all of us to familiarize ourselves with the importance of theatre. It is extremely important that we all understand the significance of theatre, and opportunities it represents for so many people.
How to combat QAnon
At its very heart QAnon is an anti-Semitic movement. The references to “globalists,” Soros and the Rothschilds, are dog whistles of hate. The blood drinking cabal echoes the ancient blood libel. This piece, however, is not about the threat it poses solely to Jews. It is about the threat it poses to us all. (Last I knew Tom Hanks, Queen Elizabeth and Hillary Clinton are not Jewish.) I say this because there are lessons to be learned about combating this particular form of hate, which can be broadly applied.
QAnon has become a haven for racists of all stripes. It has created a fantasy that has somehow merged belief systems with neo-Nazis, white supremacists, sovereign citizens and even anti-vaxxers. It has attracted millions of adherents and even provoked violence. In the midst of a pandemic and political turmoil it has thereby become a threat to the nation.
The isolation and financial stressors brought on by COVID make for fertile recruiting. The conspiracy attracts those who feel the need to belong to something larger than themselves. Such individuals become the heroes of a narrative that seeks to rescue innocent children from the clutches of evil madmen. They believe themselves special because they possess knowledge that few others do. Some seek camaraderie by sharing beliefs with like-minded individuals. They are thus converted into acolytes, eager to spread their gospel. The aliens and reptile people and laser beams from space just add luster for a group of people eager to find distraction from their own constricted lives. True believers cannot or choose not to understand how things actually work. They allow QAnon to fill in the gaps with its lunacy.
Despite all that I have previously said, many adherents are also highly functioning people. They work hard and have families. They often say they think for themselves. Some pick and choose which parts of the conspiracy to accept and which to discard. These discriminatory processes are an indication that many can ultimately recognize reality, if given the tools to do so. Herein lies the opportunity to apply the lessons learned from fighting anti-Semitism. Aim for the heart as well as the mind. Reach out to the larger community as well as to those souls afflicted with hate.
A wise man once told me that if you do not know how you got from point a to point b, why a decision was made, you fill in the void with the totality of your personality. But the way he said it was profoundly personal.
I say this because insight, faith and wisdom are not possessions of an elite few. They can be taught. They are weapons we can wield to overcome the peril of QAnon lies. However, simply trying to bang people over the head with truth is painful, both for the person wielding the hammer and the one with the armor clad helm.
Adherents have so incorporated the QAnon falsity into their very beings that they will interpret any impassioned assertion of reality as a personal assault. They will spin such an effort as yet another attempt to hide the truth.
We thus need to provide QAnon believers the tools to reject anger and hate. Sure, we can’t reach them all. And if some want to hang on to the belief that multidimensional aliens stalk the earth, fine (Who knows, their existence might explain how we get from a to b.) Just jettison the lack of self-awareness and bitterness. Recognize that certain types of reality denial endanger whole communities.
So, how do we free people ensnared in this dangerous cult? Begin a campaign on television, radio and social media that provides the means for people to free themselves. Have our federal government assemble a council of psychologists, religious leaders, converts from QAnon and whoever else can help figure out the best way to instill a message that opens the mind to insight, hope and kindness.
The goal is to offer adherents an alternative community, one that rejects this lunacy. They themselves must be the ones to recognize the utter absurdity of their belief system and the reasons they fell for it in the first place. Circling back to my initial premise: It’s what has been successful at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and similar institutions to combat anti-Semitism and racism. It goes well beyond mere education. The effort must strike a deeply felt chord. It must personalize the road to reality and create a path toward empathy.
Finally, we should not only seek treatment, but also prevention. We cannot allow more people to sink into the Q morass. We need to encourage the formation of a grassroots’ effort to find the right messages for individuals, young and old. A federally-sponsored nationwide initiative, partnering with local organizations will go a long way in reclaiming our collective sanity.
The safety of the republic demands a coordinated and innovative approach. Common decency demands that we offer a chance for a better life to those in thrall to madness.
Jan Herrman, M.D.