When you don’t agree with a stated fact, or a divisive figure, what do you do?
More and more, it seems the answer is to create your own truth. The problem is that it’s usually far from truth. History isn’t as elastic as some would have you believe, nor is it partisan (though interpretations of it …). It seems now that the old saw about history being written by the winners is now more akin to history being rewritten by the whiners.
It’s one thing to reinterpret past events based on newly discovered trustworthy information; it’s quite another to assert that your re-imagination of events is the truth when the evidence shows that it isn’t. Often it comes down to the objectivity of the historian, or the social and political climates of the time.
The wonderful New York Times piece on the front of Sunday’s Perspective section made the case far better than I could about the fallibility—and malleability—of memory. Years and biases have a way of reinterpreting the past, and what you think happened might not have happened at all.
So if, for example, someone claims 30 years after the fact to have overheard President Lyndon B. Johnson tell someone he’d have blacks (though more colorfully, as was his wont) voting for Democrats for 200 years, you might think twice about automatically assuming it’s true.
Yes, LBJ said and did more than a few things to be ashamed of (lifting one of his beagles by the ears on multiple occasions for photographers is just one thing that comes to mind), but not all the stories about LBJ and other historical figures are true, many based on misremembered or wholly false anecdotes and old grudges. Even the pervasiveness of video and other recordings now doesn’t stop people from stretching, re-editing and rewriting the truth, then spreading it far and wide on the Internet and elsewhere.
What has happened more and more over the last few decades is that we’ve segregated ourselves into groups of like-minded individuals so we don’t have to hear dissenting opinions.
When we do hear something that upsets us, we sometimes go a little (or a lot) off the rails and forget everything our mamas ever taught us about how to act around other people. I know that if I decided that anonymous drive-by insults were the way to go, there might be a hand upside my head. OK, most likely would be.
If you’re secure in yourself and what you believe, you should be willing to stand behind it and, even more, the beliefs of others should not bother you so much.
The Voices page thrives on a lively give-and-take, so this may sound odd for me to say, but here it is: Stop letting other people live in your head rent-free. Many people apparently are so troubled by Al Case that it’s become a bit of an obsession to get him to turn from his agnostic ways (not atheist, no matter how many times they insist)—sure, it’s entertaining at times, but sad at the same time.
And there is one individual in whose head I apparently live … well, his version of who I am, which is far from true, not that he’d let you get in a word of rebuttal.
He’s much more interested in conveying his shouted opinion in as abusive a manner as possible, complete with very creative insults … “purveyor of all things librul” was about the nicest one, and probably took him all night to conjure. His latest, “pacifist f***,” just makes me laugh, especially as I had not written or done anything to merit that. It was simply that he thought I would feel the need to defend “my hero,” the president, after the Charlie Hebdo attack (yes, really, because THAT’s what was important about that tragedy).
Silly ass (I just can’t call him a man), my heroes are people like my mom, Gandhi, Martin Luther King … so yeah, maybe I’m a bit of a pacifist, but the rest of that insult? Really?
I talk to a lot of people every day, and most are unfailingly kind and often very funny—and they identify themselves, which this being refuses to do, as he isn’t interested in actual discussion, only ranting and slamming down the phone. (I hope he’s slamming down a landline phone … if it’s a cell phone, that’s a pretty expensive hobby.)
As the inhabitant of his head, I’m a bit worried that he’s likely to have a heart attack or stroke or an aneurysm one of these times. I’m also a little worried about the awful echo in there, and all that hot air constantly rushing through … a girl could get sick, ya know.
Gosh, I can’t wait for his response to that.
What gets lost in echo-chamber thinking is perspective, an essential ingredient in understanding.
No one side is right or wrong all the time, and it’s foolish to think that way. You have valuable insights, as do others. All I ask when dealing with me and anyone else involved with the Voices page is that you be truthful and polite, and understand that just because you think something is true doesn’t necessarily mean it is.
Everybody gets edited (myself included, thankfully), and all get fact-checked. Yes, some letters make it in more quickly, usually because they have nothing that needs to be checked or contain facts that have been checked so often we don’t need to check yet again.
Not that some will agree with that, nor will they agree on the truth of it, regardless of the amount of evidence presented. Because, of course, I’m terribly, terribly biased … and evil … let’s not forget that.
And Mr. Anonymous, thank you for being so brave in your valiant fight against differences in thought. It takes a lot of guts to do so without revealing your identity. I’d say you’d be remembered for it (as well as your oh-so-creative insults), but since I don’t know your name …
And you might want to talk to your doctor about that anger-management issue. At least before you actually do burst a vein.