Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Newtown and the Truth
It is one of the most compelling scenes in the Bible.
Jesus is brought before Pilate, accused of plotting insurrection. Pilate makes a statement in the form of a question, “So you are a king?” And Jesus turns the words back on him, “You say that I am a king.” His mission, he says, is to testify to the truth, and he claims that everyone who is open to the truth will listen to his voice. Pilate does not react to the implied insult, but asks the larger question, “What is truth?”
It is a question for philosophers and theologians, as well as for scientists and historians. And it is a question for every human being.
For the philosophers and the theologians, there is no single answer. And for every human being, there is a personal answer which is, at least in some ways, unique. But for the most part we have agreed that historical and scientific truth could be found with some certainty. Scientists and scholars could reach consensus. They would be open to new discoveries, but they could agree on the facts.
But our common sense of truth has increasingly come under attack.
The most recent case may also be the most absurd, but it is part of a larger pattern.
News stories on television and in print report that Gene Rosen, the retired psychologist who took in four scared children he found hiding in his driveway on the morning of the Sandy Hook massacre, is now accused of being an actor in a vast conspiracy to create an event that would push the country toward stricter gun control. Really.
“I don’t know what to do,” Rosen told an interviewer from Salon.com. “There must be some way to morally shame these people, because there were 20 dead children lying an eighth of a mile from my window all night long. And I sat there with my wife, because they couldn’t take the bodies out that night so the medical examiner could come. And I thought of an expression, that this ‘adds insult to injury,’ but that’s a stupid expression, because this is not an injury, this is an abomination.”
As evidence of the hoax, one web site points out that Rosen “focuses totally on the kids and the sound of gunshots. Even though his eyes and ears should've taken in the whole scene, his story focuses completely on the kids and the guns.” And the writer explains why, “if this was a false flag event designed to move political opinion on gun control, here in America, then you would get a lot more bang for your buck by talking about the innocent little children. That's what tugs on America's heart strings the most ... especially around Christmas time.”
It is both cruel and bizarre, but it is also just one more to add to the list:
911 was an inside job.
Global warming is a hoax.
President Obama was born in Kenya.
The President is a Muslim.
Evolution is a hoax.
And the list goes on.
We are in a strange place. Our technology allows us access to a wealth of information vastly greater than anything the world has previously known. But we do not trust our scholars or scientists. In one of the more memorable exchanges within the committee that reviewed standards for text books in Texas, one participant, a dentist, said that he did not want to leave history or science to “the experts.”
The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” In the strange world of the paranoid truthers, we are also entitled to our own facts.