Comment: ‘Telling truth shouldn’t be hard.’ So let’s be honest

We’ll always have political spin, but even partisans be able to agree to facts that really can’t be denied.

By Petula Dvorak / The Washington Post

Truth is truth, even in Washington, D.C.

It’s pretty simple.

“Telling the truth shouldn’t be hard,” U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said this week in his Capitol Hill testimony about defending the building on the day of the insurrection.

“Fighting on Jan. 6; that was hard,” Dunn said. “Showing up Jan. 7; that was hard.”

But it is baffling to him that any American — let alone Americans who are supposed to be leaders — could look at hours of video, thousands of photos, hear from hundreds of witnesses, see the broken glass and the feces-smeared walls, the death and the bloodshed, and still say that day was a “loving crowd” of “normal tourists.”

Whether it’s Jan. 6, the coronavirus vaccine, the pandemic, masks, gun violence, climate change or a pizza parlor in D.C., there is a way for America to get a grip and agree on facts that support a serviceable truth, one we can acknowledge and use as the compass for our democracy.

Sure, D.C. is the capital of spin. A hearing is done, a law is passed, and it’s part of the game that politicians and their minions interpret the event with their own take.

But the traditional idea of spin is quaint in this new world of outright lies and cartoonish abandonment of truth, with Kellyanne Conway serving as a discount Plato with her “alternative facts.”

It’s the illness that is rotting us from the inside; the ignorance of truth, on every front. Nearly two-thirds of Americans said they were having a hard time figuring out what’s true whenever politicians speak, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center in 2019.

A year earlier, a Hill-HarrisX poll said a majority of registered voters don’t think polls are truthful.

Even before that, the Oxford Dictionary threw in the towel on a collective truth by declaring the word of 2016 to be an Orwellian adjective: post-truth.

It’s defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Here’s the actual truth: We do not live in a post-truth world. There are indisputable facts — tangible, hard facts of life, death, substance and consequence — that can help us become a stronger, united country.

For a start, here are some truths in today’s big debates that we shall all hold to be self-evident:

• Officer Dunn and the three other brave and clearly battered men who testified on Capitol Hill this week fought for their lives when the mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. These people were neither tourists nor part of a loving crowd.

• More than 611,000 Americans are dead of covid-19. There are bodies, death certificates, caskets and devastated families to show that this is true.

• The covid-19 patients filling hospital rooms today are largely unvaccinated.

• A mask slows the spread of airborne particles. Try it. Spray a water bottle in your face; it will be wet. Try it again while wearing a mask; it will be less wet. This is truth.

• You can’t blame the deaths by gunfire of roughly 38,000 Americans a year on mental illness and video games and suicide. They are a result of easy access to firearms here. Many other nations have mental illness, video games and suicide, but without our gun culture, they have dramatically fewer, if any, deaths by gun violence.

• It was roasting in Canada and the Pacific Northwest this summer. Flooding is ravaging cities that have been dry. The sea is rising. Ice is melting. Climate change is happening. It’s not trickery or manipulation of evidence.

• Vaccines do not put microchips into your body. (Come on, people. Do we really have to do this one?)

• There was no pedophile sex ring in the basement of that D.C. pizza place. Heck, it doesn’t even have a basement.

• Simone Biles is a phenomenal athlete and courageous woman, continuing to compete after the world heard about the horrific way she was abused by a team doctor and the disgraceful way it was handled. That will stand as truth, whether she goes on to compete a thousand more times or decides never to compete again.

There are no alternative facts, no personal truths, no alternate realities to dispute any of these statements. The serviceable, common truth in these cases is easy to see.

“Why is telling the truth hard?” Dunn asked the world during his congressional testimony. “I guess in this America, it is.”

Let’s change that.

Petula Dvorak is a columnist for The Washington Post’s local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. Before coming to The Post, she covered social issues, crime and courts.

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