Why thinking for oneself matters


Recently, CNN interviewed a nurse from South Dakota who said that some patients with Covid-19 still refuse to believe the virus is real. Even after they have contracted it, even after they are near death, they believe they have another disease, or that their suffering is caused by something else altogether. When asked if they want to contact their family one last time, they refuse because they think they’re going to be fine, or because they are too angry and confused about how they could have been so misled.

The idea of one being told what to do, of eliminating any need to think for oneself, might sound appealing sometimes. You’ve got too much on your plate, too many decisions to make, and it would all be made easier by having someone or something just tell you what to do. It also eliminates the guilt when something goes wrong: “I was just following orders,” or “I didn’t have any control over it.”

Sadly, this cop-out is all-too prevalent with people who support President Trump. They believe whatever he says. Because his is the ultimate opinion, they don’t have to think for themselves, they don’t have to consider other sources, and they don’t have to put in the real work of making their own decisions for their lives. Trump has charmed and conned people into believing whatever he says, including that Covid-19 is not real. Even after he himself contracted the virus, many of his followers still believe his very first announcements about the virus. They believe that the only reason he has backtracked is that he was “pressured” by the media, by the Democrats, by something beyond his control. 

This kind of infallible god-worship has been proven, throughout history, to be dangerous. People should always think for themselves and use the information around them to make informed decisions about their lives.

Most LGBT people are unique in that we have been forced to think for ourselves and to question what society tells us at a very early age. Up until recently, we didn’t have anybody validating who we were and telling us how to live a productive, happy life. We only had people who told us we were wrong. And yet, we knew in our hearts that we were doing nothing wrong, we were just living our lives. So we learned that not everything we see — in the media, entertainment, and school — is correct. We learned how to find our own sources and our own role models. We learned that there are different types of people in the world and that no one life path works for everybody. We learned to walk our own paths.

Questioning what one reads, sees, and hears is a good thing. It’s a matter of survival. Nobody likes to be misled. But knowing what sources are to be trusted and what sources are not is equally important. And that is something that many in the Trump generation have failed to learn. Instead, they have taken the easy route, the path of least resistance, the path of zero critical thought. What a luxury it must be, to have one man tell you everything you need to know, everything you need to do. The big question is, then: what happens when that man goes away?