Mel Graykin: Facts are facts, and they don’t change based on who is in power

For the Monitor
Saturday, February 04, 2017

The past few weeks have been
. . . interesting. I have a few observations I would like to make.

Language and behavior that were offensive before the election are still offensive now. A change of administration in the White House does not suddenly make rudeness, bigotry or harassment acceptable. The offenders are like the class jerks who act out because the teacher has left the room.

Reality has not changed, either. If it was true before the election, it is still true. Facts cannot be wiped out of existence by executive decree. The election of a climate change denier does not make climate change go away, no matter how big a swath of willfully ignorant citizens smugly declare they don’t buy into the hoax either.

If the current administration blithely dismisses what the vast body of science and every other country on the face of the Earth has realized is the stark, fearful truth, it will not end well. We share this planet with billions of other people who are not going to take kindly to the United States selfishly fouling the air and water to suit itself.

In our global community arrogant proclamations of “America First!” are terrible foreign policy. We need to cooperate with other nations. There needs to be the give and take of diplomacy.

We can hardly expect other nations to be willing to negotiate on their own interests if we are unwilling to negotiate on any of ours. This nationalistic nonsense only isolates us and makes us exactly the kind of international pariah that countries like Iran and North Korea have become.

Lastly, I am thoroughly sick of individuals in the government and in the private sector who seem to believe that criticism equals suppression of their rights.

Whether it be in my humble hometown or on national platforms, everyone has a constitutional right to declare publicly what they think. And everyone else has an equal right to declare what they think of what that person has said or done. You have no cause to pitch a Twitter fit, have a meltdown on Facebook or howl that you are being bullied into silence because someone has disagreed with you. No one can (or should) stop you from doing so, but you merely come off as an immature twit. My writing an article or posting a comment saying that I think your tactics are unscrupulous and your opinions deplorable is freedom of speech not slander.

Contrary interpretations of the facts are not lies, nor are they truth (other than it is true that these are your opinions).

Creating echo chambers where the only opinions expressed are ones you agree with, and the only facts you accept are the ones that support your convictions, encourages delusion and denial of a complex reality. You cannot be an open-minded, critically thinking, informed citizen if you enclose yourself in these insulated bubbles. Try to do it at the federal level, and you are toying with dictatorship.

Whether it be blocking someone you do not like from a discussion or using the power of office to try to suppress speech that disputes with your agenda, preventing individuals, organizations or federal departments from speaking out is wrong. Facts have neither a liberal nor a conservative bias, and to try to reshape them to suit your purposes is wrong.

Truth is not established by opinion polls or imposed through power; the attempt merely generates popular delusions pretending to be Truth. It is futile, pernicious and wrong.

That is, of course, my opinion.

(Justine “Mel” Graykin lives and writes in Deerfield, and practices freelance philosophy on her website at justinegraykin.com.)