By Andrew L. Pate, Jr.
I celebrate my birthday on April 8th every year. But since I had no memorable awareness during that marvelous event, I have to accept my parents’ word for it and the information that the date is stated as authentic on my birth certificate. These sources for my birthdate are, of course, secondary. To prove my date of birth you and I, plus everyone else who wants real proof, we must accept the testimony of my parents, the doctor who delivered me – all three now deceased—and a legal certificate, which, as some may aver, could have been given the County of record at a latter date in support of my existence.
Sorry, but any possible additional public announcement of my birth on the aforementioned date is not forthcoming. If such exists, I have never seen it nor had it confirmed that any publication ever celebrated my birth shortly after it occurred.
The above is but a clear example of “Truth’s" sad situation these days. Everything we see, hear and read about is arguable. Some say, “It never happened.” Others, “The report was biased and intended to mislead.” Or else, they declare, “It’s a Big Lie!” as though the mere statement proves itself.
And also, as everyone knows, it’s impossible to prove anything to the satisfaction of most people. It was René Descartes who said, “I think, therefore , I am.” But to be quite frank, I doubt that my thinking in itself makes anything True.
My efforts here to make light of a very serious matter may come across as weak or inadequate. I agree. A lot of people do not know about, nor do they really care about my birthdate.
But my purpose is serious, which is mainly to point out: We live in an Age of Untruth, when nothing can be validly presented as believable or provable (nihilism) . For we Americans have become experts at disclaiming every fact and at declaring false whatever has been asserted as true that we don’t want to hear.
How did we get to, progress or regress to this point in our history? Take your pick. But I have a few ideas about “the how” that might help us put the issues in perspective, to the extent that is possible.
First, there is the reality of our prosperity, which, Truth used to say, can destroy, inspire and rightly challenge anyone. It’s nice to have the things you want, to enjoy them, and want more like them. And we have gotten really good at adding wealth to our existences. But along our way to riches, truth got sidetracked. We learned to do and say anything that might make us yet more prosperous. For example: Simply by shouting, "We’re the richest nation that has ever existed,” we have convinced ourselves that somehow Truth itself was in the way. If a sales pitch includes a spattering of lies, that’s fine. And, for sure, if you are a politician and a huge falsehood will get you elected, you ride that hobby horse as far as it will take you.
Even many of our Christian preachers have gotten into the act. Perhaps their most popular message is called “the Prosperity Gospel.” And there’s no doubt about that; these wearers of the cloth are getting richer and richer.
But as a minister myself, I am deeply puzzled, for I can find nothing in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth that even smacks of making prosperity the chief topic of exposition. (There’s a whole lot about not doing just that.)
Along with our disastrous prosperity obsession, the Truth we used to know has suffered a big let down in the clutches of our weak educational system. Getting the best students into the best colleges so they can join the most prosperous has become a guiding principle in our secondary schools. And because football and other sports bring in “money,” they are also encouraged endlessly, while promising athletes are coddled and passed easily through the system so that they can do what? Yes,! So they can become more prosperous.
It should be no surprise to us, therefore, that our high school graduates have acquired more ways for claiming what is and what is not the truth than there are stars in the sky. For these graduates too have learned how to turn and twist the Truth to fit their wants and wishes. Facts, the writings of noted historians, they are considered elitist and no longer applicable to real life. And if our football team wins, many of us in America are absolutely convinced we are on the right track.
The Silence of Those Who Know Better, especially on the part of those who once were our our primary Truth definers, like the Pope and our best known Theologians and Moral Philosophers. This form of truth-degrading connects tightly to our obsession with prosperity as well as to the glaring weaknesses we know exist in our classrooms.
The persons who now hold these once powerful positions have, in part, silenced themselves; but more critically, our society has silenced them. We Americans no longer respect them, or else we reject them because they come across as “arrogant,” “pompous” and “hypocritical.” – which we have learned to apply cleverly in support of our own prosperity.
Yes, there are still a relative few among us who want to stand by the Truth and speak out on behalf of Personal Integrity and Justice and Equality for all people—the core historical values of our democracy.
Mostly, I find our present-day Voices of Truth are to be found in the media; they are our opinion writers and reporters who still hold passionately to a rather old-fashioned commitment to reporting events as they actually happened. There are, for sure, other Truth seekers and speakers, but they are less visible, and without the means to be heard.
Sadly, in my judgment, the voices of today’s Truth-Prophets are falling on deaf ears or have been silenced into nothingness by the twists and turns of Prosperity worshippers and weak Educators
So, honestly, if untruth continues to expand and deepen its social presence, is it not the case that we can only assert that we are living through the demise of American democracy?
And for that reason, I make a suggestion I pray will be taken with great seriousness by every American: Believe the True Prophets; for our destiny is in their hands and minds.