Can you feel it? I felt it yesterday. That feeling….of…complacency. It started to settle in. Fatigue, disillusionment, hopelessness — plus two kids, two dogs and holiday shopping to do. I found myself — for my own emotional survival — starting to believe that things were going to be ok.
And then, our President-Elect went off the rails again by questioning the vote count of his own winning campaign, claiming that he would have won the popular election if not for the millions of people who voted — only for Hillary apparently — illegally. I snapped out of it, and was struck once again by how easy it is for Mr. Trump to lie and get away with it.
The fact is we now live in a post-truth world. If you don’t believe me, a few weeks ago, the Oxford English Dictionaries named “post-truth” its word of the year, defining it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Let that sink in for a minute. According to the Washington Post’s fact checker blog, which fact-checked 314 items during the election cycle, Trump was awarded 59 separate “Four Pinocchio” ratings, while Hillary Clinton got seven. Yet in a Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll released just days before the election, Trump was seen as more honest than Clinton by an eight-point margin.
Dishonesty is now the best policy. As a father of two young boys, I struggle with how to talk to them about the importance of telling the truth when at some point soon, they will see that lying actually is beneficial — you can lie your way into the White House. It didn’t used to be that way. I was brought up to understand that there were consequences to lying…and it felt like there were even for famous people and politicians (not all the time obviously). And while the rest of the world is perhaps ok with living in a post-truth world, I’m 100% not ok with it.
Truth is the foundation of society — of how people get along with each other. Love is a form of trust. I’ve been with the same woman for nearly 20 years and at the absolute, fundamental core of our relationship is trust. It doesn’t mean we’re truthful with each other all the time — she knows when I tell her that I’ve already called the dentist to schedule an appointment that I’m going to do it tomorrow — but on the really important stuff, there is truth.
Of all the things that have come out of this election cycle, the death of truth is the one that scares me the most. It’s a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger. If you lie to me once, then twice, then three times — I have no idea when you’re telling me the truth. It didn’t start in 2016 of course (see: vaccines cause autism, climate change, weapons of mass destruction, etc, etc.), but Donald Trump’s campaign has legitimized lying in a way we haven’t seen before.
That’s not something I can accept.
As a society, we need to believe that a certain medicine may help us. We need to believe that our water is safe to drink. We need to believe that our food is a safe to eat…when lying becomes the societal norm, we will become paralyzed from fear.
So what do we do? It seems like such an overwhelming problem and it is. How long can people shout into the wind until they become exhausted and give up? Personally, I was heartened over the past few days to see journalists and so-called thought leaders attack other journalists and publications for writing headlines about Trump’s illegal voters claim without saying that his claims were baseless. That’s a good place to start. Holding the 4th estate accountable as best as we can.
The other night, I was reading a Mo Willems book to Alex before bedtime. He writes the great books about Elephant and Piggie and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I can’t remember which one we were reading but one of the characters in the book stated something that was his opinion, and I figured it was as good a time as any to discuss in more depth with Alex:
Me: Do you know the difference between fact and an opinion?
Me: Well, here’s an example of a fact: you are sitting in your bed reading a book with me.
Me: And here’s an opinion. S’mores are yummy. Because you might like s’mores but I don’t. Can you give me an example of an opinion?
Alex:…..uhhh…..my brother is crazy.
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/redchair/