The Fauci Dilemma
My neighbor won’t wear a mask. My other neighbor won’t talk to him. If they were on an airplane together, there would be a brawl. This is what it has come to. Welcome to America.
If you’ve managed to avoid the daily headlines or signs in store windows, there’s a perpetual battle going on in the United States over masks. The conversation has digressed into the historical debate over personal freedom versus governmental control. Although most Americans agree that wearing masks modestly promotes safety, the polarization occurs around the mandate to do so. It wasn’t that long ago that we were having the same discussion about whether it was an unreasonable infringement on personal rights to mandate those with HIV report to public health registries. This is how we roll in the United States; a land based on personal freedom constrained within the limitations of government. Today, Anthony Fauci, the unlikely foil for much of the fuss over masks, is the human symbol of science representing the government. His most vocal opponent is Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who is marketing Don’t Fauci My Florida merchandise, representing the personal choice constituency. Together, Fauci and DeSantis typify the great divide that is baked into the very DNA of America. For perspective on this historical condition, I suggest we consult the ancient Greek sage, Heraclitus.
Heraclitus taught that existence is composed of the flow of energy between two poles. In his view, right and wrong are really manifestations of the same thing seen differently. You cannot have “right” without “wrong” to judge itself against. He went on to say that in the constant exchange of energy between polar positions, things change. That is, the flow of energy produces a flow of ideas and through this exchange new ideas emerge, and progress ensues. This is where Fauci and DeSantis come in; it’s normal to have a counter argument to the predominant narrative to reach a better understanding, and even consensus, through discourse, but when nothing is moving between the poles of mandates versus personal freedom we become petrified, rigidified, entrenched and, worst of all, unreasonable in our assessment of the issue.
Instead of intelligently weighing and measuring our choices we double down on our position while reserving our harshest criticism for the opposition. We see it in marriages all the time when the partners cannot agree on even the most basic issues. The marriage always breaks down under that type of pressure as blame, name calling, and negativity prevail over rational communication. Sound familiar? Rigidity of any kind stunts the flow of energy and resigns our intuitive wisdom to the house of pain. Our positions become static and fixed. The more we defend our position the less reasonable the communication becomes. Couples end up fighting, just like Republicans and Democrats, and what’s lost in this entrenchment is the idea of intuitive wisdom that recognizes the truth and limitations of polar thinking. Frankly, we’ve become stuck in the quicksand of our own self-serving needs.
We’ve lost our flexibility of thought and action because we’ve lost our perspective. There’s no flow and thus no higher ground we can reach. We can’t agree with the opposing point of view because that will make us look wrong, and if one side is wrong the other side is right, and we can’t have that. Daniel Ziblatt, a Harvard professor, says; “Democracy is premised on elections and changes in government. If you have one party that doesn’t know how to lose, then democracy can’t survive”. Consequently, it’s not the opposition that’s the problem, it’s the interruption in the flow of energy that impedes change that’s the problem. The obstruction of movement simply doesn’t allow for agreement; it disparages truth and makes us look dumb. To Heraclitus, the dumbing down of America is the estrangement from the underlying dynamism of that flow. Without flow, nothing grows. That’s the Fauci dilemma, we’ve trapped ourselves within the limitation of our own thinking, where rhetoric rules and flow is relegated to the basement.
It’s hard to free ourselves from right/wrong thinking when it’s all we know. It’s like asking a fish swimming in water to understand water as something separate from itself. It is time to stand back and view the fishbowl from the stands to see the water we’re swimming in. For now, we’re all in the fishbowl, and the stands are mostly empty.
I leave you with this quote from Schopenhauer: All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
The third stage awaits…
Five Minute Articles For Your ConsiderationSep 1st, 202112 comments
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About the AuthorLarry Laveman, LCSW, BCD, is a Psychotherapist and Author in Solana Beach, California. His publications include topics on marriage counseling, supervision, mental health and spirituality. He is the former Chief Clinical Director for Harmonium, Inc., a community based nonprofit organization specializing in children, adolescents and families. You can find contact him via Google +, LinkedIn, or this website's contact page.
The fox is running the hen house… beware
Thanks for the warning, Shelley!
Wow, well thought out. You supported your premise with some thoughts from “‘big names”. An example of thinking that explains why I call you the guru.
Thanks a lot, Paul. Good to hear from you. Appreciate the compliment too!
Thank you for this article. In several short paragraphs you gave relief from the division with crystal clarity.
Hi Jill, I really appreciate your comment. I try to take some complex themes and simplify them without losing the strength of the message.
Brilliant, Larry. Thank you for your wisdom.
Thanks so much, Rosemary! I’m glad you liked it. I’m trying hard to be part of a solution to a problem that isn’t getting any easier to resolve.
Love your blogs. I heard someone say that dualistic thinking locks us in a prison of two ideas. There is no place for critical thinking or compromise. I wear a mask because it’s safer. Haven’t had even a cold during this crisis. The kids I work with that are on the autistic spectrum are severely suffering without being able to read facial expressions. It’s a complicated situation to say the least. My sense has always been that states that have both parties talking to each other seem to have less problems than the states controlled by one party. Thank you for your very thoughtful and non~judgmental posts. Take good care. Sally
Thank you, Sally! I love your comment about dualistic thinking. It’s so true and was part of the old Cartesian mindset of dualism. For now, if we keep talking we can get there. If we keep debating we won’t get there. I say it’s time to talk.
Such a great article and wonderful responses. Thank you for sharing. Take care, Carol
Thanks so much, Carol. Appreciate you checking in and reading the blog!