Have we lost all sense of logic and trust? Are we so divided that a line is drawn and we're only able to believe people who belong to a certain political ideology?

Well, here's an op-ed that is likely to anger some people. It's certainly not my intention and nor is it my plan to argue any one side of an issue. Instead, I’m here to encourage you to use your own critical thinking and to not blindly follow your chosen herd when you hear or read political fodder. It’s also not my intention to scold or belittle, I just feel we need to all start having this discussion before we implode as a nation and there’s no turning back. 

Everyone should be warned at least once. What you believe and how you conduct yourself going forward after this is all on you. Let's start with critical thinking.

I chose a herd of sheep as my feature image for this piece for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, it's deeper and more complex than "don't follow the herd blindly." Both sides of an issue can easily say the other side is the one blindly following a falsity. That’s usually followed by a sarcastic laugh and a comment like, "Wow! THEY certainly drank the Kool-Aid." 

But, what if you're actually the one who has consumed the sugary beverage and are absolutely 100 percent wrong on a certain issue? Are you man or woman enough to accept the facts? The problem we face today is that many people no longer trust the experts. Our American instinct to question everything and everyone can make us much smarter; but it also can get the best of us. 

When it comes to your health, it's advisable to get a second, and even a third, opinion. But at some point, one has to trust an expert who after years of study in a particular field and after years of successful outcomes and reviews, has formed an opinion based on their own experiences.  There comes a time when you have to put your life into the hands of three physicians who each agree that this is the best way to save your life. The alternative, I would guess, is to keep looking until you find a doctor who's willing to tell you what you want to hear. I'm sure there are cases where the outlier was correct, but I'm afraid those are sadly few and far between.

The same holds true with every debatable issue in politics as well as in the culture wars that are beginning to boil over into the upcoming 2024 election cycle.

Sadly, if one trusts an "expert" who deals in political persuasion, and additionally uses that person to confirm fact versus fiction, they are likely a sheep about to be led to slaughter. This is more than just an opinion. This is a fact that is backed up by result after result dating back more than 2,000 years. 

However, if you objectively search out at least three sources who are experts in a certain field who have conducted real un-biased, critical thinking based on facts, with a goal of coming to a fact-based logical conclusion - then most times, you'll probably end up on the factually correct side of an issue.

Personally, when trying to find the real truth surrounding a story, I like to delve into at least one unlikely source…a source that would have absolutely no possible benefit coming to the conclusion they've reached. An example would be a liberal news outlet that writes a real, fact-based story about a liberal. Then add a few more credible sources and you can probably feel comfortable with your conclusion, and you will be able to site your sources when debating your point or making a claim.

There are politicians out there on both sides of the aisle that are banking on the fact that you're a sheep blindly following your chosen herd and you'll consume whatever red meat (or plant-based meat) they feed you. These politicians not only love to play on your fears and get you all riled up, it’s their political strategy. They know that the first thing you’re going to do it to run right to Facebook and start telling everybody that you just learned the sky is falling and your political enemy is making it happen. One more point: In order for this to work, you must be convinced that the political opposition is evil and attempting to hurt people and/or destroy the country you love. "We must stop them before it's too late," is always a good call-to-action in agendas like these that are all-too prevalent on social media every single day in this divisive world we live in. By irresponsibly sharing unchecked, angry-mob falsehoods, you have unwittily spread their propaganda at no (monetary) cost to them.  

It's not weakness to conclude that your ideological foe is actually sincere and well-intentioned in pushing and promoting their particular agenda. Repeat after me: “They are not looking to destroy the country I love. They are not deviants who worship Satan, who hope for the disfigurement and destruction of innocent men, women and children. Instead, they see a world that is far different than the one I would prefer to live in.” So, what happened to the days when we could agree to disagree?

We can indeed all live together in this world differently, without being required to surrender to a life that is in direct contrast to one's standards and beliefs. Yes, we can all get along despite our differences.

Today, it seems we live in a world where some feel everyone should be forced to live by their set of standards. The "It's my way or the highway" mentality will no longer work in this country in the 2020s - as people have enjoyed personal freedoms like never before in the history of the world. It's time to finally discard the "nosey neighbor" approach and go back to worrying about ourselves and the things that we can actually control.

So, are you a sheep? Or are you a critical thinker willing to dig deep for independent credible sources and brave enough to accept factual findings that might contrast your personal beliefs?

Below are a few culture war topics that I've done my due diligence by researching to form my own conclusion.  My examples are particular stories that are nothing more than fake news. I'm not going to argue the point but instead encourage you to do your own research and find trusted sources without a political agenda and then have the courage to accept a result that might not be the one you'd actually prefer.

• Critical Race Theory is NOT being taught in our high schools. Inclusion and tolerance of people who are different is actually being encouraged - but the two are very, very different. I for one, along with my wife, have taught our children to be tolerant of others and to treat those who are different with the same respect we would like in return.

• In 2000, George W. Bush rightfully and legally defeated Al Gore in the election for President of the United States. Bush rightfully won and Gore made the responsible move to accept the results for the good of America.

• New York State is not suing Chick-Fil-A to force them to remain open on Sundays. The truth is that a NY legislator in the Hudson Valley has introduced legislation that would require going forward, that the New York State Thruway Authority only award contracts for Thruway rest-areas to restaurants which are open seven days a week. It seems obvious that if you're one of the few restaurants who offer food on the Thruway, you should probably be open seven days a week considering Sunday is a heavy travel day. The legislation would not affect any of the Chick-Fil-A restaurants currently open on the Thruway.
• Schools in New York have litter boxes in the classrooms and bathrooms for the students who identify as cats. First, I can't tell you how stupid you sound when you repeat this as fact. It is absolutely false and in an urban legend used by the anti-gay and anti-transgender movement to scare parents into believing "the sky is falling" and their schools are allowing, and even encouraging, their children to slide off into the dark side of sexual exploration and deviance. The same ridiculous urban legend was used back in the early 2000s when the fandom craze was taken over by Furries. At social gatherings and events, Furries would dress up in a feline costume and assume an alternate personality. Before long, there were rumors of Furries setting up litter boxes as a means to relieve themselves at parties and events. While not true, it didn't stop the rumors from spreading and it was later attached to the transgender movement claiming that schools around the country had installed litter boxes for students who identified as cats. There has never been any evidence presented of any litter box set up in any school for use by "cat students." Instead, the rumors were a means of ridiculing transgenders: If a boy can identify as a girl, then one can identify as anything - even a cat. The whole storyline, despite making it into political speeches for federal office elections, is 100% fake news.

While this only scratches the surface of the thousands of urban legends and false narratives circulating throughout the political realm, they are good examples of lies being spread in mainstream settings with a political agenda. They're all designed to scare the public into voting for a particular candidate or party, which will protect you from the boogie man.

Almost everybody at some point has to stop, take a deep breath and realize how easy it is to fall down the rabbit hole. So, why not look straight into the mirror and proudly climb out of that dirty hole. Critical, independent and honest thinking will set you free from looking stupid and responsibly stopping you from spreading propaganda and ridiculous urban legends.

God bless America, and the truth.

Bill Keeler is the host of First News with Keeler in the Morning on WIBX. Airing weekdays from 6-9am, on radio, online, on the app and on YouTube.

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