The other day, I found myself explaining to my very curious children what the definition of fact was and why facts are so important.
First, I asked them “What is a fact?”
My daughter offered that a fact is something that’s real. Ok, I can accept that.
My son said that a fact is something that can’t change. Oops, not true.
I took that opportunity to provide them with examples of facts that can change. The weather, for instance. A simple fact is: It’s not snowing now. But if it starts snowing that fact becomes a falsehood.
My son went on to explain that he was talking about the word fact in math terms. It’s pretty absolute that if you take one number and add another number to it, you get an unchanging fact. True.
So we all agreed that 2+2 was 4. That is a verifiable fact.
But we couldn’t stop there in our exploration of facts. (Especially not with ex-presidents using their camera/microwaves to spy on current ones and those horrible calamities in Sweden and Bowling Green.)
I then went on to explain to my children that some people in very powerful positions are making up their own ideas of reality and calling them facts these days. And many people are believing them.
I asked the kids if they could see why that would be a problem. Well, they answered, everyone can believe what they want to believe. Hmmmmm. It seems I’ve taught them the value of coexisting with others that don’t share your beliefs. Which makes me a somewhat successful mommy, but doesn’t help when it comes to the importance of discerning reality from its alternative.
So I asked them what would happen if Mommy insisted that 2+2 was 86?
They said they would tell me to use my calculator or my fingers to prove the fact that 2+2 was not 86. Fair enough.
So I asked, what if Mommy was the powerful Queen of the World. And I say that whoever says 2+2 is NOT 86 has to go to jail. Ooooh, they said. They could immediately see this was a problem.
As you can see, I tend to teach with oversimplification and hyperbole. But it gets the point across. The ultimate point it is this: There is really no defense against a person, or group of people, to whom facts don’t matter.
What the American president, the whole executive branch, and the Republicans in Congress are doing right now is manipulating the truth in the attempt to gain more power at the expense of, literally, innocent people’s lives. We cannot let them get away with this. And we cannot let any of their followers get away with it either.