The year that truth took a brutal licking

Truth really took a beating this election cycle. Ignored, abused, stripped, and distorted, it seemed at times that its survival was in doubt. Nothing was true or false, only versions of what once was considered objective reality. Truth’s anchor line had parted and we were adrift in a storm, awash in a sea of misinformation. The more we heard, the less we knew.

With truth hijacked by the internet, social media, endless talk shows, and so-called reality entertainment, we apparently knew more but understood less. Our capacity to evaluate, compare, discern, and absorb was lost in a maelstrom of lies, distortions, name calling, threats, and conspiracy theories that overwhelmed our senses. Loud and angry shouted down wise and measured.

With truth bound and gagged, candidates were free to create their own versions of reality. President-elect Trump is a master of distortion, a maestro of manipulation who can capture an audience with nothing but bombast. Sound and fury carried the day among those who wanted to be convinced he was a savior of sorts. It was not so much what he said, but how he said it.

Falsehoods were to be viewed as hyperbole, metaphors, misstatements, or exaggerations, but never lies. Don’t take him literally was the message of his advocates as they tried to interpret his ramblings. Not as adept as her opponent in the “tell-them-what-they-want-to-hear” con, Hillary Clinton struggled to cope with harmful revelations.

Until this year, to a greater or lesser degree, truth always seemed to have a role to play in governance. It was valued, debated, and fought over, but acknowledged as essential in the formulation of sound policy.

There are those now who believe we have entered a post-truth era in which facts and fiction deserve equal consideration. To distinguish them would be elitist, unbecoming at a time when populism and nationalism are on the march. Emotional appeal shapes a new “truth” that offers simple answers to complex problems. Anger and resentment displace reason and coherence unravels.

At a time when so much more knowledge and information is available, how is it we seem to have lost our capacity to identify and value truth? How do we function when truth becomes another version of reality, dependent on one’s perspective, education, disposition, or prejudices? While history teaches us that perceived truth evolves, its arc transcends theory and bends toward objectivity.

When truth is manipulated for personal or political gain, we strike at the very heart of our own humanity.

If the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not a fundamental truth but just a slogan with no more value than a television commercial, we are in trouble. As a retired judge, I understand that truth can be elusive, but the administration of justice is based on a robust effort to identify and present the truth. For without it, we can have no confidence that we achieve justice. Truth is as fundamental to individual and social justice as clouds are to rain or a mother to a child.


What became of truth?
Does it matter anymore?
Lost in an information tsunami
That overpowers comprehension.

It drowns our capacity
To absorb and distinguish.
It’s all the same,

Choose your version.
What’s the difference?
Unbound from reality,
Bend it, shake it,
Twist it, break it.

What once was true
No longer counts.
Distort it, fake it,
Bury it, take it.

Freed at last!
But alas!
When truth dies,
Justice near it lies.