Wishful thinking does a disservice to democracy

Posted 7 December 2014 at 12:00 am


The news that Bill Cosby performed before a packed house a couple of weeks ago should not have surprised me. Many who love him do not want to be disturbed by “details.” We don’t like to be wrong or admit we’ve been “taken.” Once we have decided to “buy” into someoneor somethingit is troubling to have to reconstruct reality in our hearts and minds.

It is much easier to keep smiling confidently, believing that the way we see things is accurate. Was the Bill Cosby who endeared himself to so many people really a sexual predator all along? Has our perhaps nostalgic view of him been shattered? To what extent does a situation such as this affect our ability to trust our instincts? At least for many who attended his performance last month, wishful thinking permits them to continue trusting and believing blindly.

A comedian is one thing. When comedians run our government, broken trust is more problematic. It is hard to believe people we voted for cannot be trusted. Wishful thinking allows us to believe that our political leadership is worthy of our confidence. The idea that people we believe in would betray us cannot be allowed to enter our minds. To permit it to do so might undermine our belief in our own thought processes.

A highly regarded member of the Orleans community recently spoke with me about the sale of the Orleans County Nursing Home. His demeanor had the confidence of a sage elder talking to a misguided youth. With a broad, self-assured smile, he declared that the County Nursing Home had to be sold. He knew this because the relative of someone whom he trusted had provided him with carefully selected facts. He had not read the C.G.R. report, “The Future of County Nursing Homes in New York State.”

He thought he knew how much the Nursing Home had been losing, though he didn’t know anything about how the Intergovernmental Transfer offsets the loss. He sheepishly confessed to no knowledge of how much other County services were losing. In the absence of information, he trusted people he may not have voted for to do the right thing.

Had he not trusted the insiders (people many of us know personally), selling out those who served their community in so many ways would have been unconscionable. To accept that the County Nursing Home had been mismanaged to the extent it had might have meant he should have taken a greater interest in it. It is a lot easier on us to trust that we are doing the right thing. There is a lot to be said for being happy.

Believing the Orleans County Nursing Home, under private ownership, will continue to offer the service that made it a federally rated Four Star long-term care skilled nursing facility is wishful thinking. The notion that the Orleans County Nursing Home will serve the hard-to-place residents of Orleans County under private ownership as it always has is wishful thinking. Feeling confident that the people of Orleans County didn’t get played like trusting sheep during the run-up to the sale of the County Nursing Home is wishful thinking.

How can being relatively carefree be so important that we are willing to cling to implicit trust and a determination to remain relatively underinformed? We do those who risked their lives on behalf of our democratic experiment a disservice when we take refuge in wishful thinking.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent