Americans can’t disagree on facts

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“I think sometimes we can disagree with facts.”

– White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

Policy aside, the Trump presidency got off to an odd beginning Saturday when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made some specific claims about attendance at the presidential inauguration ceremony Jan. 20.

For all the things in the world the White House could speak on in the first address of the media under Trump, defending crowd size seemed like an odd choice, but the results of the exchange have proven to be even more bizarre.

Not only did Spicer dispute facts – based on visual evidence – he, and other members of the Trump team have since  worked to soften the rhetoric by relying on the term “alternative facts” and saying sometimes we just disagree with them.

Do we really disagree with facts? We can disagree on what facts mean. We can disagree on how to interpret them or how to use them to move forward. But we can’t disagree on what facts are.

Americans have no chance at bridging the gap between left and right if they can’t even agree on facts. 

In school, we learn that in 1933, Roosevelt signed the First New Deal into law. That is a fact. How well the program helped the country is up for debate. That is an opinion.

The United States officially withdrew from Vietnam in March of 1973. It is a fact. What it means and why are forever topics of discussion.

There are no alternative facts. Blue is not red, day is not night and facts are not subject to disagreement. When someone proposes a gray area, we are not dealing with facts. The word “fact” itself has been so twisted and stretched, it seems to not have a clear definition today.

As it becomes easier and easier in our world to be sure of facts, there has been a greater push to make facts softer and more malleable. Once much of the mystery is taken out, and our understanding of the world and ability to record actions and information is increased, theory has become fact or fiction and can no longer be relied upon as something we just put faith in.

No, if it happened or if there is empirical evidence, it is a fact. What we do with those facts has always been what politics was made of, but the recent effort to dispute them, rather than simply twist them, should be of concern to

us all.

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