The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth
By Joel E. Gordon
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines truth as the body of real things, events, and facts: ACTUALITY.
Truth used to be and largely remains a simple matter for me. Truth is the opposite of a lie or of being deceitful and rooted in fact. It is not so simple to many any longer in our current cultural environment.
Perception vs reality: So how is one, in this day and age of false narratives, fake news and social media lies expected to be able to determine what is reality or fact? From Ferguson to Baltimore, distortions of fact have kept many from having the opportunity to fully evaluate reality by being cheated of having the chance to see a complete picture while evaluating all sides of culpability for final outcomes.
Furthermore, the recent hearings to confirm Supreme Court Justice, Honorable Brett Kavanaugh, were turned upside down with uncorroborated and unsubstantiated accusations of misconduct from the justice’s teen years. Certain members of our very own United States Senate were seemingly willing to suspend any presumption of innocence in the absence of provable fact, abandoning any semblance of constitutional due process. This abdication by some in insisting on judgements based upon facts will surely backfire and boomerang as time goes on. Stay tuned for all the political scandals which are likely on the horizon.
Fortunately for law enforcement, police body camera use has overall proven to be a blessing to our law enforcement community. The implementation of their use has proven time and time again that Constitutional policing is the norm, much to the dismay of the law and order naysayers.
I understand that we as individuals can look at the same scenario or images yet take away a different perspective based upon our own experiences, wants and prejudices. In many cases, though, could it be said that failure to see an entire event or scenario will cause a distorted perception of what has occurred or is occurring? Compartmentalized thinking is often used for justification, right or wrong, to rationalize a taken position.
For forty years, as a thoughtful philosopher by nature, I have been thinking about how compartmentalized thought (or partial information) is detrimental to critical thinking. Does a lack of understanding of cause and effect and unintended consequences stymie the ability to “see the whole picture”?
Bothered by “your truth” “my truth” or other versions of “truth?”… “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have,” said Oprah Winfrey upon accepting the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.
The Urban Dictionary offers this definition of My Truth (which if it’s not mine is your truth). My Truth: Pretentious substitute for “non-negotiable personal opinion”. Often used by academics, this is a convenient phrase for avoiding arguments because people can contradict your opinion but not your “truth.” The phrase is often used when seeking to justify a controversial personal stance or action because people are not allowed to argue with “your truth.”
The belief that we all have our “own truth,” being further fueled by academia, is increasingly bothersome to me. Schools are guilty of compartmentalizing subject matter restricting Students’ understanding of reality and further limiting a world view full of facts, connections and questions yet to be answered. Is this way of thinking possibly at the root of our cultural decline?
Silencing conservative or alternative-thinking individuals via campus boycotts and social media limitations due to “political correctness” concerns further exacerbate the problem of giving individuals the chance for gaining necessary information so all sides are heard and honestly evaluated.
If truth remains in doubt and is controversial, then divisiveness will surely continue to expand and grow in our society. To seek unity - the kind of unity and patriotism seen immediately after Sept. 11, 2001 - we must be protective of facts in seeking truth.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how compartmentalized thinking leads to people believing that they are entitled to their “own truth.” Compartmentalized thought then lends itself to that perception of multiple truths. It seems as though a view of the complete picture would, more often than not, reveal a universal truth as the body of real things, events and facts: ACTUALITY.
Joel E. Gordon is a former Field Training Officer with the Baltimore City Police Department and is a past Chief of Police for the city of Kingwood, West Virginia. He has also served as vice-chair of a regional narcotics task force. An award-winning journalist, he is author of the book “Still Seeking Justice: One Officer’s Story” and founded the Facebook group Police Authors Seeking Justice. Look him up at stillseekingjustice.com