You know those dreams you have or movies you’ve watched where the protagonist is running through the forest, whipped by low-hanging branches, and stumbling through the underbrush? That’s how I feel right now as we try to engage from differing perspectives in our political discourse.
My sister told me a story the other day: she asked some ladies with whom she was playing bridge how, as Christians, they could support a president who (here she listed any number of his immoral behaviors including adultery, lying, racism, caging children…) and the response was, “I don’t believe it.”
How on earth do we converse with one another when facts are considered malleable?
I’m willing to discuss policy with anyone on any part of the political spectrum from right to left, but if we do not share the same reality, how can we talk about anything?
This is the slope we have careened down when science is disputed and reality is dismissed.
Sometime near the beginning of Trump’s presidency Kelly Ann Conway uttered the phrase “alternative facts”? I assumed that was the beginning of the end. In reality, that was the beginning of the beginning.
I remember when Richard Nixon’s actions came to light. Once the facts were established, both sides of the aisle insisted he step down. This time, this scandal, is horrifically different because our Republican leaders are treating the facts as optional interpretations of reality.
Facts are not something we can choose to believe or not. And if our policies are not based on facts then they will not truly address our problems. Then there is the unspoken truth that conservatives fail to critique how their policies underpin racism, sexism, and homophobia. They are unable or unwilling to confront and condemn the prejudice that powers their current movement because that would require admitting and responding to facts.
Where do we go from here? I am uncertain. But I must believe that there are more people who are willing to acknowledge and deal with the facts of climate change, racism, sexism, homophobia and how our lives are diminished – even endangered – than there are who aren’t. More of us who are willing to be challenged than there are people who insist on believing only what is comfortable or that confirms their prejudices.
Today, let us embrace facts. Let us be challenged and informed by them. Let us offer them to our conservative friends. Over and over again. Open handed, like palming a cube of sugar for a horse. At some point, like the horse, they may come to realize that facts are palatable, even sweet. They can be tentative as they like, but we must not withdraw our hand.