Occasionally, when I comment about how widely the claim of “Fake News” has disrupted and corrupted our public square, I’m challenged by those who either claim such news is “really” real and/or claim that “Fake News” is being deliberated generated in order to delegitimize the Trump administration. Let’s be clear: most often real news is called fake news in order to discredit it.
While I’m used to hate mail I’m not yet used to hate and threatening mail from people I know, neighbors, people with whom I’ve had relationships so, when I get emails embracing “Alternate Facts,” especially one from a long-time Seacoast resident, an outstanding citizen and successful businessman, I pay attention.
I pay attention.
I pay attention when some folks suggest I go live somewhere else.
I shopped at that businessman’s store occasionally – most recently in May – and I’d make special trips to his store on holidays for special items. He never seemed offended by the cash I paid for products I bought.
The visits were pleasant – the ambiance and service inviting and the quality first-class.
I realized, recently, as I read his response to my recent Fourth of July column, that I’d shopped for 20 years at his store never recognizing it was being run by a narrow-minded nativist intolerant of people like me.
He could tolerate my cash. He just can’t tolerate me. In response to my column he wrote a letter so offensive I won’t publicly quote it.
He won’t see me there again, I promise.
The letter, and others like it, fully endorse and embrace the Trump Effect – the public and shameless weaponizing of hate and demeaning speech against minority and dissenting Americans – the willingness of people to say things in public about other people, even neighbors, which are demonstrably false and hateful.
Such willingness to embrace demonstrably false facts as weapons to attack and try to disenfranchise people not like themselves is ignorant, shameful, and unpatriotic. Such attacks are not easily-ignored micro-aggressions, they are macro, wide-spread, dangerous and un-American.
Discerning truth is often not difficult. When I’m asked, “How do I know what news is real,” I reply, “Check multiple sources.”
It’s not hard – the truth is out there. Sometimes mistakes are made but checking multiple sources clears it up pretty quickly. Some reports are clearly risible, like the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration; others are clearly wrong and results in people getting fired, as happened at CNN.
Yet, today, although President Trump clearly doesn’t believe in truth, accuracy, or in freedom of the press, such letter writers, including military veterans, defend his attempts to shred constitutional liberties and freedoms – liberties and freedoms for which others gave the ultimate sacrifice.
While recent attacks include alternative facts too numerous to fully rebut I’ll respond to a few. Contrary to the letter writer’s assertions:
- President Obama never spent 19 years in Kenya.
- On Memorial Day Obama participated in wreath-laying ceremonies every year at Arlington National Cemetery except 2010, when he was scheduled to honor our fallen heroes at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery near Chicago, while Vice-President Joe Biden took his place at Arlington. A thunderstorm interrupted the Chicago ceremony and Obama returned to DC to deliver his speech at Andrews AFB.
- On Veterans Day Obama’s laid a wreath and delivered remarks for seven of his eight years in office. (In 2010, he was in South Korea).
- Also, plutonium was never sent to Russia, the Clinton Foundation spends between 80-89% on program services – not 5%, Chelsea Clinton’s husband’s father never did deals with the Clintons, and Susan Rice never pleaded the 5th.
Those are facts.
What makes this country great is that we aspire to follow a script drafted by our Founding Fathers – scripts known as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution – scripts that’ve inspired generations of patriots.
Generations of true patriots who’ve fought to preserve all the rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence – to preserve the right of the press to dissent, the right for me to write critiques, even critiques deemed offensive by some.
Weekly, I speak at libraries, Rotaries, churches, community centers and other venues about ‘the Other’ in America – three this week alone. I talk with neighbors and write about Identity and Conflict because, sadly, there are too many people who think, act upon, and indulge in the same pernicious myths and false information that these letter writers do.
I have an idea. Rather than write unsubstantiated emails criticizing my right to free speech, ask your local libraries, church groups and civic organizations to invite me to do a program.
Then, rather than telling me to Love It or Leave It, critics can come and publicly engage in civil conversation, in the public square, where such dialogue belongs.
Americans are often exceptional and generous but also human and fallible. We are best when we are not overweeningly arrogant but inclusive, humble and aspirational, when we choose to recognize when we’ve gone astray and work together to return to the correct path which leads us to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I’m not going anywhere. I’m not getting on any plane and leaving the country, as some letter writers suggest, wth or without their help.