I find it beautifully ironic and hopeful that because of the rise of Donald Trump and #FakeNews we are in a moment of renewed calls for discovering “the truth.” It is particularly ironic that many who identify as liberal, progressive or otherwise on the “left” of the political spectrum are crooning most loudly about it. But instead of mock them, I am excited to embrace them. Let’s walk together on the journey.
I’m someone who is committed to a lot of traditional values and ideas that are not always popular among progressives and yet I’ve always had progressive friends. This should be the norm in America but it’s not. Instead, most Americans are increasingly segregated, self-selecting on social media into groups that think and act like them, moving in growing numbers into neighborhoods and to cities that accommodate their views and joining groups and churches that do the same. This is a huge problem.
I can’t tackle the whole enchilada, but we can take a bite out of it by focusing on this one, simple question: “what is truth?”
I believe there is indeed absolute truth, it is knowable in many ways and we can discover it together. I’ve never accepted the post-modernist view of the world that generally throws out the idea of absolute truth and instead focuses on what is true for the individual. It simply doesn’t hold functional water for me. Now this worldview is coming home to roost in the era Donald Trump.
Progressives who reject absolute truth have little grounds upon which to claim Donald Trump is wrong in shaping his own reality. After all, he is the pinnacle of postmodernism! In his mind, it seems, whatever is true and good for him should be true for all. And if you push back on it, you’ll be attacked as a liar, purveyor of #FakeNews, sympathizer of Hillary Clinton or if you’re lucky, given some uncreative nickname to mock you. That’s his basic worldview, lived out.
I cannot begin to count the number of stories that have been written “fact-checking” Donald Trump, showing he’s a liar and generally screaming at the top of their liberal lungs, “he’s not telling the truth!” Of course many Trump supporters willingly dismiss these, even in the face of airtight factual arguments. We cannot change that overnight. But we have to keep speaking truth, keep pointing out lies and deception. We have to keep holding journalists to the highest standards of factual accuracy and protect their right to report with great vigilance. We have to be careful what we read, how we read it and to stay humble. But in order to do all this well, we have to find common ground.
So to my progressive friends I say, let’s go back to basics together and agree that there is indeed, and must be, absolute truth. There is such a thing as right and wrong behavior. We can debate the specifics. But without this foundation, we have nowhere to stand together. And in the words of one of our truly great leaders, echoing a deep and enduring truth from the Bible – a house divided against itself cannot stand.