Some have noticed that I use the byline of “think vs feel.” I’ve tried to incorporate this attitude and philosophy into my writings. However, as the father of cynicism, I expect some readers to be, well, cynical. So, to plead my case, I am invoking the lessons of another, much more recent philosopher, John Stuart Mill.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
If something is a reasonably accurate representation of reality, it is a fact. As humans, we’re incapable of observing, remembering, and then stating any event with 100 percent accuracy, even though most people try.
However, if you tell a lie, that’s what it is.
If you repeatedly tell a lie, it remains a lie.
If you get a million people to repeat your lie, it still remains a lie. It does not become a fact.
You may be able to kiss a frog and have it become a prince, but a lie is a lie is a lie.
It’s not a difficult concept, so why do so many people find it impossible to understand?
On December 8, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began with these words; he ended with his request for Congress to declare that a state of war existed with Japan, as is consistent with our Constitution.
Over sixteen million Americans served in the military in the Second World War, with 405,000 dying—292,000 killed in battle. Throughout the world, 1.9 billion people served in various armies, air forces, navies (including coast guards), and marines resulting in 72 million deaths.
The Japanese had not signed the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, killing, torturing, or enslaving Americans and their allies.
Nazi Germany established a series of efficient death mechanisms, including death factories (camps) to systematically murder over 6 million Jews, along with the handicapped, Roma (calling them gypsies is like using the n****** word), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other innocent people who the Nazis considered unworthy or inconvenient.
How times change. That was the last war in which Congress passed a Declaration of War.
We won, and to the victor belongs the spoils, so by tradition, we could take whatever we wanted from those we vanquished. Instead, America provided aid to our allies and many of our former enemies so they could survive, recover, and rebuild.
This was not a business decision, it was a moral decision and the right thing to do. This was a long-term investment, which would cost the “greatest generation,” but benefit the children and the grandchildren of those who took the moral high ground. Many of these countries have worked together, with America as a senior partner, toward common goals, for decades. Together we have grown morally, intellectually, and economically. There is competition, of course, and we don’t agree on everything, but for over 70 years we’ve been able to resolve disagreements with these nations in western European and with Japan without a single shot fired in anger.
Today, if you ask people about the Second World War, many cannot tell you when it was fought, who we fought, or why. As the last veterans of that war die, is the knowledge and wisdom dying with them?
Although the United States has had military troops in combat more often than not since 1945, Congress has not enacted a declaration of war since 1941. They’ve avoided making a decision, but as was said in the 1960s, “Not to decide is to decide.”
This great nation of ours that broke the bonds that held them to King George III has, over time, allowed each president to assume more unilateral powers; to make the executive order as powerful as law—and if they’re not careful—as powerful as the constitution.
So, where are we? Without our leadership, other countries who once “had our back” are following our example and more concerned about how their nation can prosper regardless of the consequences.
In 1775 it was “Give me liberty or give me death!” In 1836, “Remember the Alamo!” In 1864, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” In 1898, “Remember the Maine!” In 1918, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” In 1941, “Remember Pearl Harbor!”
Today, it’s “I want mine.”
Unfortunately, December 7th didn’t live in infamy and its lessons are barely remembered.
Often, as I waited in the checkout line at the grocery store I couldn’t help but notice the supermarket tabloids. They sort of look like newspapers—they seem to use the same type paper stock—but they consistently featured unbelievable, outrageous headlines about scandalous affairs, celebrity divorces, the latest news about the extraterrestrial aliens the government was hiding, Big Foot, and, of course, Elvis’s current whereabouts.
I used to feel a sense of superiority—I was certainly not going to read their tripe. In fact, I wondered what planet did the readers and writers live on?
I’m afraid it was this one. Today, legitimate newspapers are reporting scandalous affairs, celebrity divorces, and the latest news about what the government is hiding or ignoring. Unlike the tabloid articles, though, these stories are not figments of the writers’ imaginations; they are fact-checked descriptions of real-world events. The legitimate newspapers have not gotten worse, but reality has.
If you’re confused as to which is a tabloid and which is a newspaper–if the headlines include extraterrestrial aliens, Bigfoot, or what Elvis has been doing, it’s a tabloid.
In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford–as Indiana Jones–tells his class that archaeology is the search for fact. He recommends the philosophy class for those who are seeking truth.
John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Truth, like beauty, is subject to interpretation; facts are not.
For example, when it comes to religious beliefs, people rely on faith to find their truth. Their god or gods cannot be proven, yet many view their beliefs as the one true religion. This is no criticism of truth or faith–after all, it would be a fairly pathetic god who could be factually proven to exist or not exist. A leap of faith, which is probably unique to human beings (at least on this planet), is often appropriate and, indeed, justified. My God expects me to walk by faith, not by light.
Facts, on the other hand, must meet more stringent criteria. Ideally, they can be tested and proven with the results subject to verification by others. That’s how science works. Facts are used to this, which is why many scientific and mathematical “facts” are properly referred to as theorems (or, for the popular press, theories). Many are challenged regularly, perhaps in every high school chemistry class around the world, year after year.
Today, truth, facts, news, fake news, tweets, social media, etc. should all be held suspect instead of being accepted as absolute, irrevocably proven. They must be challenged. There are many things presented as “truth” that are not facts, that are not substantiated by evidence, and cannot be proven.
Maybe you belive I am stuck on this particular subject, which is likely so. However, it was I who carried a lit lamp during the day, searching for an honest man. In fact, I was not searching for an honest person, I was trying to emphasize this very point.