Gingrich Cushman: The Problem With Narrative

Gingrich Cushman: The Problem With Narrative

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This week, The New York Times caved to online bullying and changed a headline for an article covering President Donald Trump's remarks after the horrible shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The original headline, "Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism," was met with outrage on social media by those on the left.

During the day, the hashtag #CancelNYT began trending. The headline was changed to "Assailing Hate but Not Guns." So, if the headline was initially wrong, what did Trump say on Monday in response to the shootings?

Trump noted that the El Paso shooter had "posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate," and the president called for national unity. "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy," Trump said. "These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul." Appears the first headline was accurate.

Trump then laid out action steps that could be taken: "First, we must do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs," he said. "Second, we must stop the glorification of violence in our society ... Third, we must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence ... Fourth, we must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms."

He closed with a call for "the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty." His call for unity, beefed up by specific action steps, was met with outrage from political opponents and a successful push to change the headline.

So, what led those on the left to call for a different headline? The narrative they believe is that Trump is a racist. The belief in this narrative is so strong that any information in conflict with this belief must be ignored and anything that supports this belief must be true, even if it is not.

As I write in my upcoming book, "Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening," all too often, "we take in information and then attempt to make it fit something we already believe and understand; we search for facts to support what we already believe to be true."

Let's take the left's belief that Trump is a bad/racist person:

Last year, the New York Daily News printed a picture of a child at the border crying behind her mother. For those who follow the narrative, it's Trump's fault.

Then, there was the picture of a child in a cage that trended on Twitter. For those who follow the narrative, it's Trump's fault.

Then a picture of a bus outfitted with children's seats circulated. For those who follow the narrative, it's Trump's fault.

None of these was Trump's fault.

The child was never separated from her mother and was brought to the United States by her mother without her father's knowledge. The child in the cage was part of a protest, and it was a staged cage. The bus was purchased in the Obama administration. All of the assumptions about Trump were wrong. But still the narrative continues: It must be Trump's fault.

What is not talked about? Actions. The Trump administration forgave $322 million of debt for four historically black colleges and universities: Dillard University of New Orleans; Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Tougaloo College of Jackson, Mississippi; and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. Trump signed the First Step Act, comprehensive criminal justice reform. He has created economic "opportunity zones" to revitalize inner cities.

But these actions don't fit the narrative.

The challenge for those on the right is that while the narrative is not true, as noted by the examples above, it's the prevalent way many voters organize information in their mind. Sadly, it has now extended not only to Trump but to those who support him.

On Tuesday, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, tweeted the names and corporate affiliations of 44 Trump donors in his district, claiming their donations are "fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as 'invaders.'" Castro's twin brother, Julian, is a Democratic presidential candidate.

The Democrats are fueling a campaign of hate against anyone who disagrees with them or doesn't believe their narrative, no matter the facts.

The problem with following a narrative is that the real work gets left by the wayside. We should focus on actions rather than narrative.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman writes a weekly human-interest column for Creators Syndicate that focuses on current events and political issues from a mom’s perspective.

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Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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