By: Chris Warren.
After a week of partisan screeching from both ends over two huge Supreme Court cases, a foreign trade deal, and a 150 year-plus cyclic hostility towards a flag, I’m ready to wish I was in a coma for the last few days. The headache is not from the nature of the issues, but from each faction insisting they are on the side of truth and the other is pulling off a great deception. I do believe there is a line where truth ends and lies begin, with a caveat that the specific boundaries are not easily determined by us mortals. Of course, mortals will always try anyway and fail. The failure comes out of the theory that for “my” side to be right, “your” side has to be wrong.
Although I do not consider myself a neutral bystander to any of these issues, I’m not so hardened to a view that I can’t admit those with whom I disagree have a point worth taking seriously. My boundary of truth is like one of those temporary fences used around constructions sites: Sturdy enough to maintain separation, flexible enough to be moved when needed, and is easily repaired when it gets plowed down.
There are absolutists who will shudder at my movable fence theory and accuse me of moral relativism. Naturally, their morals are the correct ones and everyone else, including me, is venturing down an evil path. It’s funny how easily they can identify everyone else’s inconsistencies while being completely if not willfully ignorant of their own. Whether it’s preaching about family values while hoping no one finds out about their own genetically-related dirt, or globe trotting aboard a carbon-puking private jet to get paid six figures giving speeches about how all the rest of us are earth killing slobs and puppets of the rich, they never fail to show us how problematic moral absolutes can be when one epically collides with a thick concrete wall of their own making.
Simply ignoring the self-appointed truth police is not enough of a defense. The pablum is too thick to plug one’s ears and hope for the best. The most effective and perhaps only defense is one’s own truth. That means clearly thinking through your beliefs and knowing how you arrived at them. It means admitting when an idea is wrong and discarding it instead of clinging to contorted rationalizations for keeping it.
More than all else it means not lifting yourself up by putting others down. It seems we live in a time when it’s not enough to be “right”. We must also beat down all who don’t go along. Almost everyone has at least one acquaintance who is on social media numerous times a day posting provocative articles and memes about controversial topics. Notice how nearly all of these nuggets of what they consider “truth” do not directly support their cause…they instead take cheap shots at the opposing cause. They are miniature versions of the larger media world. I find myself quickly clicking away from web pages and changing channels. I don’t necessarily disagree with what they are saying; I just don’t like the way they are saying it.
The default is to blame the internet and electronic media for the truth wars, but I’m not willing to go there. It’s too easy. The media as a communications mode is amoral, without any inherent bias. People will be who they are; the internet just gives them a greater opportunity to make fools of themselves. Neither side of any issue should have to be the only one expected to move his fence to accommodate the other. For too many, the boundaries of truth are hopelessly cemented in the ground.