Being Right

A Year of Essays: January 11, 2022

Brian Broome’s opinion piece in yesterday’s Washington Post caught my attention just with the title: “I like being right. I don’t like how I handle it.” He recounts his elementary school days when having the right answer was met with scowls and smugness from his classmates. He astutely notes that “some of the power in being right rests in its ability to make us feel superior,” concluding his argument noting America’s “destruction will come from those of us who are so damned right all the time.”

Ouch! The truth hurts.

I was one of those kids who had to be right all the time. I was also that obnoxious inquisitive kid who read everything (I still do), asked a millions questions, and lorded my knowledge (which borders on savant-like) over those who didn’t know. Naturally, I became a teacher.

My mother convinced me that I could succeed at anything. This gave me an overblown sense of self, but also an everlasting self-confidence that has pushed me through obstacles. I have been wrong on the rare occasion, but I have used those times to reflect on why I was wrong but more on how I would do better the next time.

Broome’s article found me the day after I was rethinking mask mandates. With Omicron considerably less severe than earlier variants of Covid, maybe it is time for the masks to come off and let the virus run itself through the population. Before the measles and rubella vaccines were developed, parents hunkered in for a series of weeks while the disease made its way through all the kids. Now that we have Covid vaccines, why not go unmasked? Let the vaccine antigens be supplemented with the viral antigens to boost our overall immunity.

Yes, some will die. A pandemic allows that. A death is only tragic to those immediate, and nature eventually wins. Culling the herd is not necessarily a bad thing.

Both presidents during this pandemic have been so damned right about their approach to the health phenomenon. A realistic approach might not have saved any more lives, but it may have calmed our collective angst.

Imagine if the former president had been truthful from the start: “It’s a deadly virus. We are working on a vaccine. Wearing a mask doesn’t fully protect us, but it helps mitigate transmission. Distancing ourselves also helps mitigate. It’s not a cure-all. Do what you can to protect yourself and others. Be careful with yourself and each other. Let’s just slow things down and ride it out until we have a vaccine.” A very different message that might have made these past two years more bearable.

Broome thinks we could be more compassionate in our disagreement through learning about others’ beliefs. I’m reminded of Jane Straus, my own guru, who said, “Listen to the people on the fringes. They have their truths.” Yep. If we listen, we learn, and move towards empathy and understanding. And maybe not be so superior. About this, I’m right.

Broome, Brian. “I like being right. I don’t like how I handle it.” Washington Post, January 10, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/10/why-certainty-is-americas-kryptonite/

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David Beach is playwright/writer, director, dramaturg, and educator. He holds a PhD in education and an MFA in playwriting, and is a professor at Radford U.

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David Russell Beach

David Russell Beach

David Beach is playwright/writer, director, dramaturg, and educator. He holds a PhD in education and an MFA in playwriting, and is a professor at Radford U.

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