by Mike Fuqua
What is truth? When you think of truth do you think of circumstances that lead to truth? Are you one of those folks who talk about “your truth”? There is an increasing tendency in our society to water down truth or at least to apply qualifiers to truth. The loss of objective truth is one of many reasons that there is so much angst and conflict in society today. If we can’t even agree on what is objective truth, it’s pretty difficult to agree on causes, processes, and outcomes of anything we do.
A good friend and retired Priest who I’ve quoted several times in this blog had a great reflection on the mayhem at the Capitol on Wednesday. One section particularly struck me and is something I’ve been concerned about for some time. Objective truth. Why have we lost it? Or are losing it? Here are his words:
“..,the political chaos in our country is a symptom of our abandonment to objective truth. President Trump’s lies reflect a postmodern culture in which there is no longer any objective truth, only the “truth” that I want to hear, or agree with, or accept. Truth is only a perspective from an individual and not an objective reality. It is truth as I see it, that suits my agenda, is in my self-interest, that furthers my policies and reflects my will to power. The Nazis of old and the Chinese Communists today have practiced this kind of truth. George Orwell warned against it in his books 1984 and Animal Farm, and even C.S. Lewis wrote a powerful book on the subject titled The Abolition of Man.
America today is a nation without truth, only “truths” for different segments of the population. If you are a liberal, you tune into MSNBC or CNN. If you are a conservative, there is Fox News or Newsmax. You read papers or go to web sites that appeal to your preferences and prejudices, never hearing or listening to any other viewpoints. This is a frightening phenomenon in our country, and it is preventing intelligent discussion and rational debate because each side is absolutely convinced they have the whole truth and their opponents are completely wrong – and not only wrong but evil. No dialogue is possible. There is no conversation, no willingness to listen and understand the perspectives of the other. No wonder there is violence and political heavy-handedness in America. We can’t even sit at the same table and talk to one another with mutual respect as citizens of one great country. ”
That pretty much sums up my views. And the concern is how do we get it back. One of the many websites I’ve been watching is Axios. They are relatively new but are popular with the younger crowd who want quick stories that cut to the chase. There is one this morning that particularly resonated called “Insurrection and misinformation tears the country into Three Americas”. The pull quote that struck me is here:
“Now, more than ever, is the time to read and reflect: Our nation is rethinking politics, free speech, the definition of truth and the price of lies. This moment — and our decisions — will be studied by our kid’s grandkids.”
Along with truth and maybe just as important is trust. Who do you trust do provide you with truth? Do you suspect it’s their truth and not the truth? Do you seek multiple sources to figure out truth for yourself? Most media has bias. That’s just a fact. And it’s nothing new. I saw a quote the other day from George Washington from a letter he wrote in 1797 to James McHenry, the 3rd Secretary of War. President Washington wrote, “We get so many details from the Gazettes (media), and of such different complexions, that is is impossible to know what credence to give to any of them”. So figuring out truth from media has always been a difficult task.
Add to this that these days many, many people get their information from non-traditional sources. Blogs, websites, newsletters, podcasts, and many other forms of information have proliferated across the net. There. is usually little control and they can say anything they want. In the last week I’ve heard wild conspiracy theories from people I would otherwise deem level headed. Our current strife has served to feed these theories. So be careful. Don’t be the person who passes on bogus information that doesn’t pass the logic test.
There is an increasing potential for the population to break into factions that only believe what they are fed. When this happens it is only bad for the Republicans. With their disappointment with Trump since the election, I think more and more people will turn away from him. But there are a significant number of rabid zealots who believe in him as the renegade outsider who wanted and wants to “drain the swamp”. When you add in the far right white supremacists, you have a recipe for recalcitrance and even violence. However, his actions and rhetoric along with disgust of the actions and beliefs of some of the people still in the Trump camp are increasingly alienating to a large number of Republicans.
So the next few years will be a critical and defining time for the Republicans. And I think if there is a fracturing of the party that results in two (or more) smaller parties, then Conservatism is dead. Or maybe not dead, but certainly on life support. If you’re a conservative Republican, which way will you go?