The power of critical thinking
Anyone who has studied political science or philosophy has at least heard of The Republic, written by Plato. Plato was a student of Socrates, and The Republic was one of Plato's best-known works, in which he wrote about what he had learned as a student of Socrates. Unlike today's educational institutions, Socrates taught his students how to think, not what to think. This concept of critical thinking has been lost in modern-day America as government, media, and academia conspire to do the exact opposite. Politicians and the media love "smoke and mirrors," making one thing appear to be something else. It is nothing more than a cheap canard.
We have been told by the media and politicians that the latest spate of violence in such states as New York and Illinois is due to firearms. Andrew Cuomo's website touts that New York has the strongest gun laws in the nation, and he is passing more laws to stem the violence. This is on top of the passage of the 2013 New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or the "SAFE Act." The SAFE Act expanded the classification of what the state decided was an "assault weapon," created a statewide database of those individuals who were restricted from purchasing or possessing firearms and ammunition to be able to easily identify them, restricted the type of magazines that can be possessed, increased background checks for purchases, and a required recertifying pistol permits every five years. Shouldn't this have made New York the safest state in the Union? Instead, Andrew Cuomo has declared a "gun violence emergency" in New York State, which will among other things allow for civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers.
Thinking critically about this is simple, as no other inanimate object is blamed for violations of the law. Politicians do not blame sports cars for speeding, nor for impaired driving accidents. Ford and Jack Daniels are not being blamed or sued for the irresponsible uses of their products. So the critical thinker is left with the question: could it be there is something else as the cause of this violence?
In 2020, New York State introduced bail reform laws. This N.Y. Post article from April 2021 outlines the drastic issues caused by the bail reform, concluding that New York is "considerably less safe" as criminals are not held before trial and released on appearance tickets, a court date, and no guarantee that those arrested will appear to answer for their crimes, just as free as anyone who has not so much driven one mile per hour over the speed limit. New York also implemented a "raise the age" program, which increased the age at which a person would be treated as an adult for a crime. A person thinking critically would have to ask himself: is it the firearms causing the crime in New York, or is it the soft approach to crime and criminals?
A recent article on Fox showed a midsized city in New York State outpacing Chicago for homicides. Yes, that Chicago, the crime-ridden, double-digit-shootings-every-weekend Chicago is being outpaced by Rochester, New York, which has a higher murder rate per capita.
According to the article, Rochester's mayor attributes the high rate of violent crime to "racist policies of previous governments that caused high levels of poverty in Rochester. Is that argument valid? Racism seems to be every politician's excuse for anything these days, but thinking critically, this rationale can be easily dismissed. A look into that particular city's history shows that there are many factors at play other than racism. A quick internet search provided an article from Rochester's own newspaper, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, which shows a steady decline in employment opportunities in Rochester. This would seem to account for poverty more than racism. If we were to accept the mayor's assessment that the violence is caused by poverty, it can be illustrated by the article that poverty is not being caused by racism, as the article shows that Rochester's largest employer, Kodak, went from employing 60,000 people to about 1,600 people in twenty years. Very few things push people into poverty more than lack of employment opportunities and being laid off.
At the core of this issue is the fact that politicians and the media want to distract us from what is truly happening. This is not something unique to one political party. Republicans love to play word games just as much as the Democrats. Much like the N.Y. SAFE Act sounds like a magnificent piece of legislation to keep New Yorkers safe, the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act sounded wonderful in the wake of the September 11 attacks. It was a Republican-controlled house that passed the PATRIOT Act and a Republican president who signed it into law. The "backronym PATRIOT Act made it sound like only an un-American jihadist would oppose such a great law. If you look deep enough, you will find stories of the law being misused and civil liberties trampled.
In the end, we need to think critically again. Do not swallow what is being spoon-fed to us by politicians and the media; look for information from other sources you would not otherwise seek out normally, connect the dots, and draw your own conclusions.
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