The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion. – Arnold H. Glasgow
The despicable tale of Barrack Obama – a parable.
Once upon a time there was a man elected President of the United States whose name was Barrack Obama. He was a democrat and also the first black man ever elected President of a country that once held members of his race as slaves and designated them “property” rather than “people.”
On the surface, the election of President Obama was a revelation, a sign that a country once defined by racism had risen above such things and was ready to come together to tackle the massive problems facing the country and, by extension, the world. Unfortunately, behind the platitudes, inspiring speeches and talk of the public good, something nefarious was going on.
You see, before becoming President, Obama bought a five-star ski resort in Colorado. Instead of holding official meetings at the White House, Obama began doing all government business at the ski resort, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and charging both the US government and visiting dignitaries exorbitant rates for staying at his private facility. Obama even diverted millions of federal funds designated as disaster relief money to do significant upgrades to his private facility, enabling him to charge guests even more. This was a clear violation of the US Constitution’s emoluments clause, but the President’s supporters didn’t care.
Meanwhile, upset with her husband’s decision to run for President and subsequent win, Obama’s wife Michelle decided to stay behind in a mansion in Chicago, costing American taxpayers millions because of the additional security measures required. The President also set up his daughters with high-paying advisory positions which didn’t really require them to do much of anything and gave them offices in the White House.
Obama also bought an historic hotel in Washing, DC and converted it to an Obama Hotel, with his well-known logo on the front of the building. He required anyone wanting to meet with him to stay in this hotel, where they were charged exorbitant rates ($15,000 per night, in some cases) and were also gouged in the restaurant, where presidential staffers watched to see who spent enough money on food and drinks to warrant a meeting with the President.
As for policies, the President gave huge tax breaks to the rich and powerful who donated to his campaign and frequented his hotel and ski resort, causing the federal deficit to increase to nearly $1 trillion over his first three years in office.
Republicans, led by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell were up in arms, calling for impeachment and removal from office, while Democrats defended their president through pure party loyalty and despite his many legal and ethical violations.
Of course, the above story is not true, but Republicans reading that would respond just as their fictional counterparts did in the final paragraph of our parable.
Now…what if I tell those same Republicans that everything they just read about Obama was actually true of President Donald Trump, with the exception that the ski resort is a golf course in Florida, the mansion in Chicago is actually Trump Tower in New York City and the hotel in Washington, DC is actually now a Trump Hotel.
Those same people who were just calling for impeachment and removal from office would undergo a stunning transformation, becoming apologists for their President instead of calling for his job.
Welcome to American politics.
Where does it leave us when our opinions mean more to us than facts, when they actually trump (pun intended) any facts with which we are presented?
I struggle with this question more than any other in our culture. I believe very little of what I am told or what I read, especially on social media, where many people absurdly get their “news.” I fact-check relentlessly, but even this can be challenging in the age of the internet, where everyone with a computer can create a blog and pass themselves off as experts. I stick to established news outlets and try to avoid opinion pieces and places where reporters behave like bloggers, substituting personal bias for well-reasoned and well-documented research.
I am in the minority, however. Many just take some meme they see on Facebook or some other social media outlet and accept it as true if it fits their personal worldview.
Recently, when I was having dinner with my godfather, a retired and widely revered Presbyterian minister, he was discussing this issue, which is tearing the Church apart. Pointing at a plate, he said: “The problem is, you and I agree that this is a plate, but there are some who will insist it is a helicopter, even in the face of evidence that it does not have a propeller or engine and cannot fly. They will pick it up, throw it, and insist it is flying even as it crashed to the ground and shatters.”
This, in a nutshell, is our problem.
We allow our opinions to trump objective truths, and in that world we can never find agreement, compromise or cooperation in any way.