Your Own Facts
I just – because I’d wanted to follow up a response I made to an earlier post – scrolled a bit through the feed of a Facebook friend. This is a person that I personally like, who has been kind to and supportive of me, interested in learning about the challenges people like me face.
Yet it’s a steady stream of posts, not all by her, some share by her friends, gloating over Trump’s win, mocking those who are afraid of what the future holds, ridiculing Clinton voters as if all of them are “EBT card” people, and most of all, making claims of fact (“this is the real truth about…”) that don’t line up with what you find in credible sources. As Ari Fleischer said on CNN this week, “the facts don’t matter” or maybe the relevant quote is the one that goes “you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts”…
Except that’s what we’ve come to – there are competing, contradictory, sets of “facts” out there and most people are unwilling and ill-equipped to sort through them, to be willing to question the ones that run counter to their pre-existing suppositions. After all, few would be willing to admit they voted for the wrong person.
My friend might be reading this just as you are and sad that I am so deceived by the fake facts from the left, just as I mourn to see her so persuaded by the alt-right narrative. Sure, I could defriend her, block her, and move on – but it wouldn’t solve anything, she’s not being aggressive with me to accept the things she believes and the story I just told you is not about me and her but about a much bigger and more dangerous problem: How can we, as a society, ever achieve consensus on ANY genuine fact when we live in a post-factual world in which everyone, in effect, DOES have “their own facts.”
There’s been some of this all along. If a new president does badly, it’s always because the last one sabotaged him somehow, if the Congress and the President are of different parties, then one can always blame the other when things do not get done, and so forth. Even competing ways to parse statistics.
But what’s going on now is that sort of thinking “on steroids” as they say. And it is very fertile ground for the sort of conflict this country has never seen. Even during the Civil War, the conflict was between actual governments with regulated armies – if it comes again the lines will not be so clearly drawn. People on both ends of the political spectrum are looking at the world and seeing things completely different not just in terms of how we feel about a fact, but the fact itself.
Last night I was in attendance at the small country church where I got married. The occasion was a vow renewal ceremony for some in-laws. While I sat quietly biting my tongue, IU listened as the preacher and some members of my wife’s family discussing their pleasure at Trump’s win and repeating among themselves falsehoods that I could have proven them wrong about had they been willing to listen, but I knew full well they had no interest. They were already fully convinced of things which, objectively, are not true.
How do you even try to persuade people in a world like that? If you get the sense that I’m feeling very defeated right now, you’d be correct. But more than that, up until I came out I was in the privileged majority and I began my transition just before President Obama was elected. Over those eight years I had felt empowered, believing that acceptance and social equality was n the ascendancy. Even though I live in a rural southern town which is well behind the curve, their was hope, some optimism, the sense of being on the cutting edge of positive change. Now, for the first time in my life, I really feel the weight of not just minority status, but actively oppressed minority status. I admit that at the moment, I’m not dealing with it very well.
Photo by Andy Miah