Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. (Winston in George Orwell’s “1984”)
I heard a terrific sermon yesterday that rattled me a bit near the end. The claim that did it was that silence in the face of un-truth is wrong. The preacher spelled it out in terms of our fears of being “political” in conversations around the water cooler, fears that prevent us from speaking up. My mind extended that application to the Thanksgiving table and to Facebook: I have decided over and over again that countering false claims is not worth the drama that inevitably follows. I have made a grumbling peace with this new normal of everyone having their own sources and sets of facts and the seeming impossibility of reconciling them.
What yesterday’s sermon made me wonder is if saving myself some drama comes at a cost for others. Is it not a kind of cruel indifference to leave one another to our own truths? What must you think of me to allow me to persist in a falsehood because you don’t think convincing me worth the effort? Is not abandonment of our neighbors a very real by-product of a polarized era, not just that we are divided but that we grow resigned to our divisions, even comfortable with them?
Shouting at one another won’t fix this. We know that. Parroting party talking points and snide late night talk show clips won’t either. That, by now, is obvious. But we don’t have to fix the whole problem in every interaction. Small suggestions of veracity add up. Bread crumbs of evidence become a trail that can lead us to a truer destination than where we are now.
Some of us around the watercooler don’t want to hear it, but some of us do. For the ones who care, it’s worth it.