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Editorial: An era between Post Truth and No Truth

This editorial is not really about anything. Or maybe it’s a year-end gathering of a few different strands of thought, or a look back from the end of a decade, wondering how it all turned out this way, how in heaven’s name we got to the place where we are now.

By “we” I mean the people who get up in the morning and go to work and bring value to their lives and the lives of people around them. How you view the world around you, what you think about this or that issue, isn’t as vital as what good you bring to the world.

Before the lights finally go out, what can you write down on a legal pad that you did for someone else? No one gives a hoot about how you got up in the morning and hugged yourself and told the people around you how great you are.

Stream of consciousness isn’t always bad. So bear with us. Stick with it. If you get to the end and say, “Hey, Editorial Writer, what was the point of this?” we won’t take issue with you. But spare us the bonfire on social media — the refuge of the opinion-about-everything crowd, where lies and insults are routine and where you try and show how “woke” you are and how quick you are to cancel out anyone you disagree with. Maybe anonymously trash that pol you can’t stand who somehow keeps getting reelected? Make you feel good? Big? Important?

As “M” once said to Bond, “Arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand in hand.”

Not many things now playing out in our “democracy” make much sense anymore. Remember the three equal branches of government you learned about in high school? Do you remember that Congress has something called oversight authority? How quick some of us are to give up on something that has brought us this far because we just can’t stomach the people on the other side of the aisle.

Objective truth — getting it, knowing it, accepting it — has flown out the window of America and is adrift on a cold wind. If hypocrisy were an Olympic event, American politicians would walk away with all the gold medals. What they despise in a member of the other party they embrace from someone in theirs. Make excuses, lie. Make more excuses, lie again. Repeat.

The search for the truth — just tell us exactly what happened, who is responsible and what should come of it — has become a circus act covered on a dozen television channels and streaming live everywhere. Watching, we see that some people are willing to burn down the very house they live in.

This month is the seventh anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 26 people were murdered, including 20 children. Yes, children. But there are people out there who say it never happened. That it’s a hoax. Fake news. Parents buried 6- and 7-year-olds — and the truth is up for grabs? The rest of us will have to pry your cold, dead hands from your beloved AR-15s with the oversized magazines; you love them so much that you’d lie about the murders of children.

In America, in 2019, we seem to be unable to know what truth is. It’s become play dough. We are in a new age, something between Post Truth and No Truth. The Grassy Knoll used to be fairly small and contained; now it covers the entire country. Perhaps there have been other times in the history of this experiment in representative government where “truth” is the storyline you invent for your gullible followers to believe, but today the sides are lined up behind high walls, angry and bitter, with one ignorant side crying “civil war.”

John Kasich, former Republican governor of Ohio, went on CNN recently and, in so many words, decried a political process that is so divided that truth is irrelevant. His point was: We are now a country of different truths, where lies abound. The actual facts — what happened — are no longer front and center. They don’t even seem to matter.

Consider this quote from John Adams: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Behind all of this, of course, is the meanness that permeates so many layers of American life, with social media being the oxygen that fuels the fire. If we here at our three newspapers endorse a certain set of candidates, we hear from the critics, some of them so disgusted by our choices that they wonder whether it would be better if the papers went out of business.

You didn’t get what you wanted, so burn down the house?

Whose side are we on? Well, the side of facts, for starters. We should all want the truth to be fully known and fully transparent; only then can we the people decide what steps to take. Oh, and opinions and facts are not the same things.

Here is a good thought from Frederick Douglass, a man who lived in a fact-filled world. Write it down on a sticky note and put it on your laptop, so you’ll see it before you open up your favorite social media account to get your “news,” post the latest photograph of your cat’s new toy or spew your opinions.

He said: “My part has been to tell the story of the slave. The story of the master never wanted for narrators.”

Had social media existed in his time, the gloriously “woke” would have puffed their chests out and, keystroke by keystroke, knocked him down to size. It’s scary to imagine where we’d be today if that had happened.