The Things We Care About

When I was a teenager, I told my mother I went to see “The Color Purple” at the movies when I really went to see “The Breakfast Club.”

I do not really know why I wasn’t supposed to see “The Breakfast Club” and now, having seen both, it was really the tamer of the two, but those issues notwithstanding, I lied. I got caught, and I got punished.

I thought about that this weekend as the networks raged on about the size of the crowds at the Inauguration last Friday. Like a little boy who embellished the number of attendees at a party, the newly-minted leader of the free world seems to be bothered by very accurate reports that the crowds who attended his party were not as big as the crowds that attended parties in the past.

We even have new language, thanks to our new leader’s friends and advisors: “alternate facts.”

Yes, the press secretary lied. Yes, he presented “alternate facts.” But herein lies the problem. Alternate facts are not facts, they are just noise that gets in the way of a truth that, in this case, no one really cares about. In his must-read book, This Is How, Augusten Burroughs writes that “the truth is humbling, terrifying, and often exhilarating. It blows the doors off the hinges and fills the world with fresh air.”

He continues:

Truth is an unassailable fact. Not your opinion of the fact. Nor is the truth you report of the events from your own, uniquely distorted and biased view, where there could be a disco ball hanging in the way blocking the most important element.

One in five children in the U.S. live in poverty. One in five.

Four children are killed by abuse or neglect in the U.S. each day.

Seven children or teens are killed by guns each day in our great country.

The United Nations reports that a record 65 million people were forced to flee homes 2015. That’s one out of every 113 people in the world.

These are facts. Unassailable facts. True statements. I could go on.

The reality is this: the country is divided. People on the left do not trust the people on the right. People are the right are afraid of the people on the far right. To move forward, we have to find common ground, mutual trust, and at least pretend we are interested in conversations about what the other side wants.

Because while some are busy introducing “alternate facts” into the conversation, the homeless, the hungry, and the marginalized still stand on the periphery struggling to be heard.

These are the things worth talking about.