One of the great spooks of my childhood was a little old lady out of Stephen King’s story “The Library Policeman” in *Four Past Midnight*. I don’t know why she’s the thing that stood out of all the disturbing material I read before I hit puberty, but she certainly did. Our basement was mostly finished. I’m not talking about some half-lit dank storage space. It was essentially my playroom while I was young enough to have a playroom. We had to walk through it when we came home and parked in the garage. It was a welcoming, fun place. But every time I had to head up the narrow steps to the main floor, I imagined this woman turning the corner as I made it halfway up. I would never look behind me, because to do so would be to acknowledge a belief that someone might actually be behind me even though I knew the basement was empty and secure and most importantly, this woman was not real.
My ability to experience the irrational, the fear that this fictional character was stalking me up the steps, and use the higher functions of my consciousness to allay that fear, is what I value most about being human. It helps us overcome the irrational, which is always bouncing around in our subconscious. Hatred, jealousy, murder—of course these things occur on an individual level, but as a species we’ve largely abandoned the every man for himself method of society, to the benefit of pretty much everyone. I think this is also the aim of most religions, though they generally operate through irrational methods. Please understand this isn’t an insult to religion! Faith is by nature irrational, as is love. Irrationality has its place in our lives. It’s an engine of creativity. But it requires a balance, and that is what makes us human.
So you can imagine my distress over the current administration’s facile handling of evidence, truth, and reality. Our country’s official stance is the one I avoided as a child: despite all evidence to the contrary, there’s a boogeyman over our shoulder and we need to drop everything that defines us to get away from it. We live in a time of overwhelming data. There is no longer a reason to pass laws and set policies based on irrational fears of what could be when what is tells us a different tale. We have a president who achieved office by convincing a minority of the electorate that the last eight years were some sort of Thunderdome that left us all in financial ruin, clinging to piecemeal rafts in a choppy sea full of sharks. All evidence points to the contrary, but here we are. Take your pick: the feasibility of walls as a countermeasure to immigration, the need for a new wall, the funding of said wall, the response to a perceived threat from countries that have not threatened us in several decades, the idea that “foreigners” and not automation have something to do with the reduction of manufacturing jobs in America, the idea that coal companies need to dump waste in the water that their workers drink in order for those workers to keep their jobs when in fact cheap natural gas is running coal out of the market, the idea that voter fraud on a level never seen in the entire history of American politics suddenly took place in an election that still rewarded the office to the candidate with fewer votes, that climate change is not a man-made phenomenon, the number of people present at an event witnessed by national media. I could go on.
I’m not a scientist, but I’m essentially talking about the scientific method. While not in a STEM field now I always favored them in school and initially went to college as a physics major with an eye on astronomy. Apparently this gave me a greater appreciation for the scientific method than most, because I despair at what I see around me. I know public policy isn’t “science,” per se, but there’s no reason not to treat it as such. Identify a problem, study its causes, and outline a solution based on that study. Rinse, repeat. We have decades of information regarding economics, public safety, social programs. This data should allow for evidence-based governance. Evidence destroys fear. Fear has no place in our government. And neither does Donald Trump.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.