Living in a time of alternative facts and fake news, it may be harder than ever to know what is really true. In ancient Greece, Diogenes searched the world for an honest man….in the Bible, Pilate famously asked Jesus what is the truth…. during our 2016 campaign, the winner amassed what is perhaps the biggest collection of lies on record.
One powerful reason for the elusiveness of truth is that so often our perceptions are our only reality. So if Ronald Reagan saw America as that shining city on a hill or Adolph Hitler saw Aryans as the master race, who is there to deny each acted on their perceptions with an equal sense of reality and conviction?
Putting aside philosophy or morality, the fact of the matter throughout history is that different people at different times have reached entirely different conclusions about what was true. Say in the case of our Revolution… our Civil War… our treatment of Women, Blacks and Native Americans.
Still, there may be one truth that has been generally accepted by us ever since 1945. The United States fought and won a good war against an evil enemy. Hence the label The Greatest Generation, and the recurring honor shown the few remaining veterans of that staggering conflict. As of this writing there may be fewer than 400 living in the greater Chicago Area.
But a funny thing happened on the way to our recurring salute to them and to the good war. In counterpoint to these few, lately there are far more critics and cynics. Mostly among the younger generations where flag-waving has quite properly become mixed with fact-finding; the kind of facts young people are discovering in revisionist histories of World War II. Intellectual discovery like this is to be applauded.
But here’s the thing.
Before our next Memorial Day, before our next Fourth of July, and surely before these few hundred pass forever from our scene, there is a need for balance. Discovering uncomfortable truths about the Nativity Scene, the Pilgrims, or America’s sins during that war should no more deteriorate our imagination of those events than, say, that drunken family who showed up at your child’s wedding.
As our adulthood wrestles with our youthful beliefs, should we not take away at least what was best and purest in those beliefs? No person, no team, no nation can long survive without holding fast to some sure enduring beliefs about itself.
And that’s the truth…
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