Picture a conspiracy theorist in your mind. You’re probably thinking of some crazed individual ranting about government coverups, international cabals, and alien landings. You would be forgiven for thinking that all conspiracy theories produce the tin-hat-wearers referenced by “Weird Al” Yankovic in his song “Foil.” In fact, most of the more famous conspiracy theories do produce the wild accusations wherein there would have to be such a large number of people in on the plot that by now one would have come forward. And you know these theories already: The JFK assassination and 9/11 were inside jobs; there are aliens in Area 51 in Nevada; the moon landing was faked. The list is pretty comprehensive, and almost always include the phrase, “a vast government coverup.” And you have every right to question the sanity of people who raise and propagate these insane ideas.

 With the first COVID vaccine having been approved this week, and with a few more on the way, the end of the COVID pandemic is within view. However, there are still several areas of concern surrounding the vaccine. Many of the more high-profile concerns are already being discussed throughout the medical community and the media. The availability of the vaccines to enough Americans to achieve herd immunity likely will not be here until the summer, at the earliest. The United States opted not to order more than 100 million doses from Pfizer - which won the race for FDA approval - even when offered the opportunity to do so as recently as November. Additionally, the willingness of the general public to take the vaccine is hovering at only about 50% nationally, and we could honestly spend the entirety of this column analyzing whose fault that is.

 2020 was the year of the lockdown. 2021 will be the year of the breakdown - the year we start to see a clear divide of the public areas of interest break down into Right and Left in the country. Places that were once unencumbered by politics are now rife with them, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s not like we should be surprised by this; we’ve been heading here slowly for the last 10 years or so. The news used to be one of these public spheres of influence. We all used to just accept that the news was the news. Such phrases as “alternative facts” and “fake news” didn’t exist. One of the issues we have now when it comes to civil discourse is that half of the country gets its news from CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Pod Save America, and the other half gets it from Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, Ben Shapiro, and talk radio.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Jean Valjean, the protagonist of Victor Hugo’s classic, Les Misérables. I made the assertion that although we see Valjean as the hero of the story, in real life he would not be given the same level of respect: We are not as quick to forgive the sins of past transgressions to people in the real world as we are in works of fiction. This doesn’t only apply to criminals, but social transgressions as well. For example, the public still hasn’t forgiven comedian Kevin Hart for his comments from ten years ago. And that’s just one example. Any comment can be dug up from an individual in the past and used against him or her today, whether it be a legal, moral, or social wrongdoing.

At the end of what will go down as one of the dumbest years in history, the American people were treated to one of the dumbest arguments in history – whether or not soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden should use her title of doctor. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Joseph Epstein in which he mocked doctorate holders and requested that Dr. Jill Biden stop using the “doctor” as a title, as she is not a medical doctor.

Ever since Donald Trump took office, a term has been floating around the mainstream media to describe how the President presents his arguments: “without evidence.” It seems as though whenever the President makes an assertion, the media is quick to point out how there is no actual evidence to support his claims. The most notable events that received this disclaimer were the reports surrounding the two elections involving him. In 2016, Trump issued an unsubstantiated claim that he had actually won the popular vote despite not having any factual basis for making such a statement. He then took it a step further this year when he made claims about rampant voter fraud across the nation (but of course only in the states he lost).