Facts Keep Us Free

What's Your Oath

People who excuse exaggerations, distortions, omissions and flat-out lies because all sides do it are wrong. Remember the oath: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Do we the people have the right to expect our political leaders to tell the truth?

When leaders place party loyalty, commitments to donors and wing politics ahead of facts, and the people allow them to get away with it, the social health of our nation is endangered. Nothing threatens democracy more than a climate that tolerates dishonesty.

Now is a good time to remember and revere Peter Zenger, a German-American New York newspaper publisher who in 1734 was arrested and charged with “seditious libel,” on the authority of a royal governor whom he’d criticized. After eight months in prison, a jury acquitted Zenger because “a statement, even if defamatory, is not libelous if it can be proved.”

Decisions by the people’s representatives, including the courts, in Washington, D.C., and state capitals impact our nation’s future as much as decisions made by generals in war. How would you feel if the military leaders in charge of your children misrepresented reconnaissance because it contradicted their party line? An officer who refused to work with all wings and the center of his or her army would be discharged.

One-Winged Birds Can’t Fly

National leadership is no party game. Political leaders outrank military leaders in America. Shouldn’t it worry us that so many of our political leaders are regularly accused of half-truths and omissions? Patriotic citizens need to spend more time visiting fact-checking websites, including those accused of favoring the “other side,” just to make sure they’re hearing the evidence.

Dostoyevsky wrote, “Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.” Too many sincere patriots are living in “like-minded echo chambers,” eager for the other side’s distortions to be exposed, yet ignoring exaggerations propagated by their own wing.

To whet your appetite for the truth, visit the Wikipedia site called List of Common Misconceptions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions. There, you’re sure to find something you believe that is wrong. And here’s a partial list of fact-checking sites: http://www.factcheck.org/, http://snopes.com/, http://www.politifact.com/.

While it’s difficult to determine the truth about complex issues facing humanity today, it’s a citizen’s duty to try.

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