How Did We Become So Credulous?



In Mahopac, the school district’s teams are the Indians. This is long-standing. I don’t believe the mascot was chosen out of malice, and there are, in fact, deep ties to Native American culture, as would be expected in land first populated by them.

Now, alumni and some students of Mahopac, roughly aligned by the group Mahopac for Racial Justice, are agitating for a new mascot. The deaths of so many people of color at the hands of police, brought to the fore by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have drawn new scrutiny to racial issues everywhere, including in Mahopac. Since then, in fact, even more of these horrible cases have occurred or been brought to light.

I think they’re right, the students. I think it’s time for the school district and the Board of Education to change the mascot. Get on with it, so that everyone can focus on the coming school year. At least, start the process in a genuine way. So far, the administration and board have sought to treat these issues — racial justice nationally and the school mascot — as entirely separate. But what if they are of a piece? If they are, in fact, inextricably linked?



They are not, I agree, exactly the same issue. But there is no question in my mind they are linked, and deeply so.

We are at a different time and a different place in our nation on issues of racial justice than we have been in decades. There is, finally, the actual prospect of greater racial equity, not just the hope of it.

Or, we can cling to our bureaucracy and procedures and traditions. Our traditions of what, exactly? That’s the question in Mahopac today.

In the South, another word for tradition is ‘heritage.’ It’s an artful term, one that as practiced in the South covers up more than illuminates. We know, now, how that one’s working out. The Confederate leaders were traitors. But as a nation, we tolerated more than a century of ignoring, rewriting and whitewashing a violent and brutal history. It’s time for change, and it’s time now. In the nation, and in Mahopac.


Nationwide, cases of the coronavirus continue to rise rapidly in many states in the South and West. Including in Florida, whose governor, Ron DeSantis, virtually gloated in April at the plight of New York City and state. And now we face the real prospect of a nationwide contagion that continues to kill ever-more people until we have a vaccine.

For decades — certainly since World War II — we have had an incredible and steady period of advancement in science, in technology, in economic opportunity. We embraced science and technology, for heaven’s sake. Went to the moon. Created vaccines, new drugs. Built worldwide logistics and supply chains that bring us nearly anything in a matter of a day or two. Our nation led an uneasy peace that kept Americans, by and large, safe for decades.

Today? It is as if we’ve taken stupid pills. Consider:

*A video promoting conspiracies about the pandemic and masks and vaccines is eagerly promoted and shared by millions of people, often with taglines along the lines of, ‘consider the evidence!’ and ‘think about it!’

*Millions of people ridiculed leaders in New York state for banning elective surgeries and requiring hospitals to add capacity. ‘Look! The hospitals are empty,’ went this braying. Yes, they were, relative to a normal week. This is called planning for the worst.

*NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s response on the virus relative to senior homes was poor and therefore, said critics, everything he did was wrong. Huh? Cuomo, as even his administration acknowledges now, made important mistakes in the state’s response relative to senior homes (in essence, the state required nursing homes to take patients who needed nursing home care, even if they had COVID-19, in a March 25 order. NY rescinded the order on May 10). To extrapolate from that to calling the entire coronavirus response across New York into question is, I think, more than a stretch. It’s irresponsible. Put another way, where would you rather be right now? NYC or Houston?

*The scientific experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, were off in some of their predictions, and therefore we shouldn’t trust them. So, 125,000 deaths is not enough to take this seriously? Who would you trust, a bonehead on Facebook reposting ‘Plandemic’ or Fauci? I’ll take my chances with him.

*Wearing a mask when close to other people is the single best thing we can do to reduce transmission of the virus. Yet, somehow, it’s become a test of both masculinity and political credibility among Republicans to not wear a mask. An odd way to sacrifice for the cause.

Friends, I am at a loss. We have made a rough art of denigrating competence in our government. We have sought to ignore basic laws of science and mathematics. We seek, some of us, to again paper over decades of racial injustice. And yet, we wonder, some of us, why millions have taken to the streets. We wonder why these multiple crises of a pandemic, brutal violence in our criminal justice system and economic disaster have so angered the populace.

And still, the contagion races on. I fear it’s going to be a rough summer, and a worse fall.

Until next week.

Douglas Cunningham is editor of the Courier and the Putnam County News & Recorder in Cold Spring. Reach him at 845.265.2468 or by email at We print almost every letter we receive. Send us yours, to the same email.

Below, President Donald J. Trump looks at diagrams and photos during his meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in the Oval Office. At the time, Florida had few cases of COVID-19, and New York City and state had many. The situation is now reversed. Official Photo by Shealah Craighead

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *