Truth Be Told

America has been flawed from the beginning.  The words that declared our independence from Britain and formed this experiment in democracy were more aspirational than actual, and they still have not been realized — we cannot say that we truly believe all are created equal when there are such wide disparities between genders, races, ethnicities, economic groups, and the myriad ways we define “otherness,” be it along sexuality, ableness, religion or lack thereof, or whether you watch CNN or Fox.  Telling this truth is not un-American, it is the most patriotically American thing you can do — it has only been through the willingness of people to speak the truth that we have inched closer, in fits and starts, to our ultimate ideals.

We have seen an all-out assault on truth in our country over the last several years.  And we are reaping what has been sown.  In the midst of the global crisis called climate change we cannot even agree if we are in the midst of a global crisis called climate change.  We have seen a dangerous blurring of the line between the administration of justice and blatant self-interest and/or outright hatred and bigotry.  A nation of immigrants now looks suspiciously on immigrants.  And what you believe is going on has more to do with where you get your news than the news itself.  When nothing means anything except to the extent that it benefits you, when a demonstrable lie is given as much credence as a fact supported by a preponderance of the evidence readily available, when narrow interests replace the common good as a motivation for citizenship, liberty suffers.

Be the change.

As it turns out there is no record of Gandhi ever saying “Be the change,” as I had been led to believe.   What he is actually on record as saying is, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.”

It’s essentially the same idea, with just a little more meat on the bone.  I have always had this vague notion that the best way to affect the macro (or global) is act on the micro (personal) level, and another misattributed Gandhi quote makes that point:  “An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.”  While it may actually have been said by a reporter instead of Gandhi to summarize a point Gandhi was making, here too we see that it is our individual actions that have worldwide consequences.  For bad or for good.

It is not enough to just whinge on incessantly about the post-truth world in which we find ourselves, or the demise of decency.  Nor is it enough to say, “someone will straighten the country out after Trump leaves office.”  We have a part to play too.  The collective effect of individuals like you and me playing their part can create a tsunami of change.

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