I’ve been part of many conversations this week that were commenting on (ok, mostly ridiculing) the idea of “alternative facts”. Yes, it does sound like Orwell-speak. But I’ve been thinking….I wonder if there isn’t a case to be made for alternative facts?
Case in point: my friend and I were discussing someone we both know. You wouldn’t know from our independent “facts” that we were describing the same human being. My experience and his experience of this person were as different as chalk and cheese. Were my “facts” – my own experience – of this person any less true than my friend’s? Did we have alternative facts about the same person?
What about on a macro-level? Are my “facts” about (for example) the current Israeli government’s treatment of people in Gaza – gathered from the information I research, the agencies I support, experiences I have, the concerns that I hold – any less true than my Jewish friend’s “facts” (from the same kinds of sources and her fear of anti-Jewish sentiment increasing in Canada (I agree with her on that….)? Are these not “alternative facts”?
Facts are information accepted as informed by our perspective. And what we value. And what kind of world we want to help build.
I’m talking about alternative facts – based on evidence and experience, not rumor and assertion; not based on something made up with hopes that the louder they are proclaimed the truer they will get. (Sad but true, even legitimate media are slipping into the same muck as the self-determining media wannabes, spreading “we think” as fact.)
But back to the point: information comes at us from so many directions, how do we know what’s true? Facts we rely on is the information we take in, subjected to critical thinking, vetted by the questions we ask, the values we hold, and the kind of world we want to help build. What are the questions you ask? What informs your values?
My values are informed by my faith: that Life will be Abundant for all people only when we see one another (every ethnicity and cultural heritage, gender expression, religious expression, political persuasion) as a sister or a brother; that peace does not come through intimidation but by wanting for the next person the same as I want for my self; that justice is not a synonym for revenge but a path to restoring relationships to a place of balance; that reconciliation isn’t a politically-correct slogan, but a willingness to shape, and be shaped by, one another so we are both the best we can be. In the end, I accept as my “alternative facts” that for which the “bottom line for me and mine” isn’t the only criteria for making decisions.
And, with respect to The 4th Doctor*, I don’t believe truth and fact are the same. Facts are information. Truth brings Life for everyone, everywhere; that’s what makes it Holy, that’s what draws us together. That’s what will set us free.