Save the Republic-Defend the Truth !

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezApril 15, 2017

In light of how our political leaders are currently dealing with the truth in our political dialogues, I looked up its definition.   The Webster’s dictionary defines “truth” as “Fidelity, Constancy,” “sincerity in action, character, and utterance.”  Many Americans see how the “truth” as they understand it, is being under attack by the current Trump’s administration.  This is neither hysteria nor hyperbole. Often we see the President and his subordinates talking to media organizations and making serious claims with no supporting evidence.  This administration is radically changing this country’s civic landscape.  Our public space has become a public entertainment space where everything is infantilized.  There is an utter disregard for evidence, truth, and civility.

Anybody with some basic understanding of the structure of civil societies knows that for these societies to function they must be premised on the very simple conviction that a thing called “truth” actually exists and that it can be substantiated. We have certain disciplines that have managed to develop some rigorous process that allows the truth to rise. Whether it is in medicine, law, politics, business, or even journalism, these disciplines have established certain checks within their systems that search for the truth. I am not sure about “politics” anymore.

I recently read a piece in the editorial pages that said how the Oxford Dictionaries website, an organization that monitors new words being used or invented in this world. They choose one every year. They chose “post truth” as its 2016 word of the year. Sadly, they looked as to how candidate Trump manipulated the truth and got away with it. The man, while campaigning,  literally said many things that were not factually correct and still managed to become President of this country. His presidential campaign was filled with lies and he reacted angrily whenever he was being called out. Well known fact checkers in major newspapers constantly evaluated candidate Trump’s claims in his speeches and they repeatedly pointed out that just a little over 50% of his allegations were truthful. His supporters didn’t care.

Here is how “post truth” was defined by Oxford Dictionary: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” If this is not the end of the Republic, it certainly is the beginning of the end the intellectual class in this country argues.

The Greeks gave us democracy, but it wasn’t a very inclusive one. They left out a whole bunch of people whom they thought were a threat to freedom if they were given citizenship rights.  Yes, the “illegal aliens,” the productive class-those who did physical work to make a living and the property-less.  They were not part of the political community. These excluded people, the Greeks argued, lacked the ability to competently participate in the community affairs. They couldn’t deliberate and were not able to tell the difference between fact and opinion and they could easily be persuaded by leaders who could appeal to their emotions.  Citizenship’s rights were only given to those who have the ability to deliberate the affairs of the state with the objective of finding the truth in the process. Yes, freedom heavily relies on good citizenship, and those who were privileged to be part of the political community must have had the faculties to question leaders, argue the complexities of proposed policies, able to research claims made by other citizens etc. The truth was out there, and it could only be found through the conversation those lucky enough to be called citizens held with each other in the political community. A commitment to the truth was vital to advance the collective interest in the “polis.”

There have been times in which President Trump has looked into cameras and with a straight face made claims that were totally disconnected with the facts on the grounds.  This led people to question whether their president is able to tell when he lies. Now, it is fair to say that this country has always had political leaders who lied to advance their self-interest. There is that story, “Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Nixon, couldn’t tell the truth, and Bill Clinton couldn’t tell the difference.” Nevertheless, any fair-minded pundit out there would attest that Trump’s lies have reached a deeper level, a level of near insanity.  He appears to be genetically unable to distinguish between his own reality and the collective reality. Trump angrily claimed that his crowds at the inauguration were a lot bigger than they were being reported. Then, he provided no evidence when he made the horrific accusation that former President Obama had bugged him.

Everyone thought that once the election was over, the man would stop and that he would finally pivot. Nope. He immediately doubled down and made silly claims that he had won the electoral college in a landslide and that millions had voted illegally.  Trump’s advisors followed suit, Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway in one of the Sunday’s political shows presented silly and false claims as “alternative facts.” The journalist conducting the interview almost fell off his chair after hearing such stupidity coming from a senior advisor to the leader of the free world.
The current state of the Republic is not sustainable.  Indeed, this thing will not work if the truth is not taking seriously. Since governments were established, truth in politics has always been vital for any political arrangement that values freedom. The truth is autonomous and doesn’t care whether those in a position of power validate it or if the masses like it. Fortunately, it needs no validation and it doesn’t care about popularity. But the truth has to be searched and honored by people and they must commit themselves to find it. It might take some time, but eventually, the truth prevails.

If we think about it, one might argue, the truth is a public good, just like a freeway or a park.  A public good that benefits everyone.  If we realize this, then we should all become activists for truth in politics and do whatever we can to mobilize people for a “pro-truth movement.”  As a pundit so eloquently stated it while being interviewed on one of the political talk shows. “Without truth, we don’t have trust. Without trust, we don’t have the rule of law. Without the rule of law, we don’t have democracy.”  Yes, let’s fight for the truth, this country deserves no less.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
4-15-2017

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Works used.

Malone, Matt. “Alternative Facts and the Coming Constitutional Crisis.” America, vol. 216, no. 3, 06 Feb. 2017.

Rodgers, Daniel. T. “When Truth Becomes a Commodity.” Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 63, no. 20, 20 Jan. 2017.

Tsipursky, Gleb. “Towards a Post-Lies Future: Fighting “Alternative Facts” and “Post-Truth” Politics.” Humanist, vol. 77, no. 2, Mar/Apr2017.

“Truth.” Def. 1a. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Ninth ed. 1988. Print.

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Photos credits:  Photos were taken from a website with password protected that one of the colleges where I teach pays.

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