By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Human behavior is almost always explainable in psychological terms. For example, the Democrats currently see Republicans as always being wrong. Republicans see Democrats as always being wrong.

However, it was a little over 20 years ago that those political differences were not important. The 2000 Presidential election had been a contested one. It took a Supreme Court ruling about the Florida hanging chads to finally settle it.

People were still licking their wounds when along came the 9/11 tragedy. All of a sudden we were all on the same side. Chants of USA were everywhere. We didn’t point fingers at each other.

Now 20 years later that time is forgotten. One wonders why that is the case. Psychological studies have been done in this arena over the years.

The psychological basis for needing an enemy to blame for bad things is an important part of human emotions.

Most things are complicated. They have many different facets. However, understanding all those facets is difficult. It is also time consuming.

People are much more at ease at finding a single cause of things. They can point a finger at an individual. They can point a finger at a group of individuals. That brings them peace of mind. Therefore, it is important to simplify those emotions by looking to blame someone or a group when things go wrong.

This gives people a sense of control. It allows them to find a single cause so they don’t have to juggle multiple issues. 

It also serves to boost our self esteem. We can see opposing groups as wrong. That makes us right. That makes us better. It is more reassuring to be right than it is to be wrong.

One study showed looked at how people bonded together. The bonds were much stronger for a shared dislike than they were for a shared fondness.

Thus our basic human instincts drive us to find an enemy. Sometimes that occurs in an obvious fashion like it did after 9/11. Other times it happens gradually like it has with political polarization over the last 20 years.

In any case, it serves basic human psychological needs. That makes it expected. It makes it predictable. As is often the case it is just normal human behavior.

COVID update- The total number of cases in Sussex County has gone from 152.42 per 100,000 people to 139.61 per 100,000 people. As far as actual numbers go, Sussex County has gone from 366 last week to 318 this week.

The number of inpatient beds with COVID patients has gone from 5.5 percent last week to 5.1 percent this week. That keeps us in the low risk range (less than 10 percent) for that measurement.  

New COVID admissions have dropped from 12.6 per 100,000 people to 10.4 per 100,000 people. That keeps us just within the medium risk zone (between 10 and 19.9 admissions per 100,000 people) for that measurement. If that number drops below 10 next week, we will go back to being in the low risk zone.

In the meantime, Sussex County has stayed in the medium risk category because of inpatient admissions for COVID-19.

Nationally, the numbers were 739,000 last week. This week they sit at 803,000 cases. The dominant strain right now is the Omicron BA5 as opposed to the BA2 that caused the last surge. 

We still have about 300 deaths per day from COVID-19. That equates to about 100,000 per year. That brings it down to about three times the deaths for the annual flu season. That is significantly lower than when it started.