I do not think of myself as a very political person. Sure, I read the newspaper, check out stories on the Internet, and watch my share of television shows with a political focus.
However, I don’t believe that I know all that much more than the average American out there when it comes to politics. I’d like to think that I’m a person of above average intelligence, and I can read or listen and understand a lot of what is being said.
But when it comes to political discourse, I don’t necessarily know all of the background involved in the discussions and arguments that I read about or listen to. Therefore, I don’t always feel well-qualified to argue points as deeply as others might.
I am also willing to bet that those people who either do argue with others or want to argue with others probably have about the same level of true understanding of all that is happening, yet they feel confident and comfortable that they know more, or at least enough, to stand strongly on their convictions that they know they are right.
I struggle to do that. I struggle to do that because for most of my adult life now, I have found that the moment I start down a path of an argument or even just a discussion with the knowledge that I possess, someone else comes back at me with a totally different perspective and argument with the same, and sometimes even stronger, conviction that I have. They start to spout off talking points that sound justifiable and rational, and I think, “Well, I didn’t know that. Is what they are saying true?”
I don’t know.
“Is what I was saying true?”
I thought so, but quite honestly, I’m not sure. And there’s a good chance the other person thinks they and their side is right, yet they aren’t totally sure either.
“Just the Facts, Ma’am”
This has created quite a conundrum for me. I just don’t know what to think. I don’t know whose side is telling the truth or which side actually has the “real” facts.
As I read that last sentence, I realize that prior to four years ago, a term like “real” facts would have seemed foolish. Facts are facts; they’re real. At least that’s what we were always told and understood to be the truth.
But in 2017 the term “alternative facts” came into our lives and, unfortunately, it stuck. People started believing that there could be multiple sets of facts.
The bigger term we started hearing much more often, though, was “fake news.” If someone didn’t like what was being reported or said, they called it “fake news.” And so, on both sides of the political aisle, you had people saying that the other side’s information was all fake, and you couldn’t believe it or trust them.
I got so sick of hearing this concept, that I would get madder and madder every time I turned on a program that was talking about the news of the day. Yet, there I was, on pretty much a nightly or morningly basis, turning on those shows to see what had happened in the previous 12 hours.
Getting Info from Multiple Sides
I lean a certain way politically. Like I said earlier, I’m not a very political person, but I still believe in certain things and have my feelings about how things should be done and what’s important for our leaders and government to focus on.
So, I usually watch shows that are broadcast more from my perspective. But that can be a dangerous thing. If all I’m getting is one side of the argument, that is not a healthy way to make decisions about what is happening.
Therefore, sometimes I will turn on programs from the other side of the political spectrum. I want to hear what it is that those people are feeling about the exact same issue that I see in one way but they see so differently. I want to learn from them. I also want to understand how either they are so far off in their assessment or I am.
Unfortunately, usually all that gets me is me yelling at the TV!
I hear them saying things that are so negative towards my side and that completely contradict the facts that I have heard from the people on my side. As they spout off their facts, I think, “Well, those sound legitimate. How come the people on the other station aren’t talking about those? How come those aren’t the facts I’m hearing over there?”
I will switch back to the original station I was watching, the one towards which I lean, and hear their ideas and facts and think, well why wasn’t that other station talking about those? And I will hear the negativity on that station talking about the other side.
While the points may be different or the belief in who is right and who is wrong may be different, there is one thing that I have found to be a constant on both sides – negativity. No matter which side’s broadcast I listen to, I hear people speaking negatively – all the time!
This immediately sets me off. Whether it is the side I agree with or the side I disagree with, I can feel myself getting upset. I am either upset at the other side because of the information my side has just relayed to me about what terrible thing they have done, or I am upset at the other side because of the terrible things they are saying my side has done or the things that their side has done that they like and that I don’t.
The one constant in this is me being upset. I get physically sick at times. Not head cold, flu, coronavirus sick, but higher blood pressure, stressed-out, nerves on fire sick. I sit there listening, and I can feel the tension in my body rise.
It becomes like a classic case of the computer concept of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. I hear the negativity, and it goes into me. I then turn around and spout out that same negativity to whoever is sitting next to me, sometimes just the cat or dog or an imaginary friend.
The only way I can stop it is to not read the newspaper, click on the story, or turn on the TV. However, then I am not learning things. I am not finding out what is going on in our world and what happened that day.
Of course, based on all that I just said, I’m not sure if I’m learning that way anyway. Because if both sides are reporting their own version of the facts, how do I know which ones are the real facts.
In the movie, Couple’s Retreat, the character named Dave, played by Vince Vaughn, is bitten by a small shark. While he is explaining to his friends the details of how it happened, he overly exaggerates the incident. You would think that a Great White Shark attacked him and ripped a chunk of flesh out of his leg.
His friends, while scared for him and grateful that it wasn’t worse, try to get him to realize that ultimately, it was just a cut, and it was not nearly as bad as he is making it out to be.
The next day while he and his wife are talking to a counselor and the incident comes up, Dave states, “I know my truth.”
The counselor, a bit shocked by the statement, says, “Excuse me!”
Dave “doubles down” (another Vince Vaughn line from his movie Swingers, by the way), and he states again, “I know my truth.”
The counselor then asks incredulously, “Did you just say, ‘I know my truth?'” and starts to jot down a note about it.
It’s a funny line because, of course, the truth is the truth. You don’t have a truth, and I don’t have a truth. There is just the truth.
And yet, as crazy as it sounded when I first heard Vaughn say it, I now see that this is how people believe.
In fact, I think it may be worse. I think that this is how people want to believe.
People want their opinion and their idea to be the right one so much, that in their mind, it is the truth, whether it is or isn’t. They get so caught up in the echo chamber around them and so caught up in the talking points of their side, that they are willing to not listen to the other side and listen to the actual facts. They like their alternative facts more, so those are the ones they go with.
Stopping the Spiral of Negativity
And so, on and on we go. We all continue to spiral downward into our own sets of reality without ever giving the slightest thought that the other side just may be right. And we get more and more negative in our outlook because “those idiots over there” just don’t see the facts, or worse, they see them and don’t care about them.
Well, I am sick of it. Sick of all the negativity, the lies, the misinformation, and then the spouting off about how right they feel they are and how wrong the other side is. And while I still get my daily dose of little bits and pieces of it, I am not nearly as deep into the weeds of it as I was before.
I know that each time I open that paper or click on that story or turn on the TV, I will be bombarded with information that will make me devolve into the negative death-spiral that will ruin my night.
Consequently, I have cut way back on how much of this information I consume. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I don’t want to live like that anymore.
So, if you meet me sometime and want to talk politics, let’s just agree to disagree or agree to agree, whichever side you happen to be on. Because no matter which side of the aisle you happen to be on, I’m either going to get upset discussing or arguing about it or get upset thinking about how wrong the other side is. And both of those things involve me being upset, something I don’t want to be anymore.
Because at the end of the day, after all that has been said and done about this, I know one thing . . .
I know my truth.
And I like it that way.