Commentary: Denial of truth spreads like virus in communication age
Perhaps the most pernicious thing that was said in recent weeks was when Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii literally told men to “shut up” in regard to determining the truth behind differing accounts of high school memories involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The Kavanaugh ordeal has been miserable in so many ways. A woman in pain may have been used for ideological purposes. A man and his family went from a moment of civic honor to one of humiliation and horror.
As Kavanaugh was about to come up for a vote, my friend Ed Mechmann, a former prosecutor who works for the Catholic Church in New York, was being awarded the Great Defender of Life award from the Human Life Foundation. At the ceremony, he talked about the death of truth and our societal tendency to devalue, dehumanize and dispose of people. And it’s no surprise this could connect to Kavanaugh because it’s hard to escape the suspicion that so much of the circus around his nomination has everything to do with the ideological divide over abortion.
What makes this so repulsive, besides the fact that the majority of abortions are unnecessary -- if we were all a little more generous and loving in our outreach and creativity, we could eliminate most of them -- is that so many of us who have supported the nomination of Kavanaugh at the same time had our hearts broken for Christine Blasey Ford. Obviously, she went through some pain in her life. If we’ve learned anything from the #MeToo movement, it is that there’s a whole lot of pain and injustice in the world today. Which gets us back to telling the truth.
There’s a synod on youth going on in Rome right now. An archbishop from Australia, Anthony Fisher, took to the floor in the opening days to apologize for abuse in the Church and the Church’s inappropriate or insufficient responses to it.
As humans, we do things that we are ashamed of. By God’s grace, the wisdom of experience and the process of maturity, hopefully we move beyond some of the worst of it. But the shameful behavior continues today in our national life and in our politics. It’s a bipartisan problem, as one side can feed the other. Instead of destroying lives -- actually ending them in moments of utter vulnerability or tearing them apart in a media frenzy -- how about embracing and lifting up the people who help, the people who give their all to spread love in the world, so that people can see that’s part of the reality of American life today, too?
The night of Ed’s award, I ran into Cheryl Calire, who runs a Mother Teresa home for mothers in need in upstate New York. She’s one of the people whose existence in the world constantly reminds me that there is something better out there beyond the constant churn of terrible headlines.
“The denial of truth is certainly not a new phenomenon,” Ed said. “But in the communication age, it is spreading like a virus and is having a corrosive effect on society on all levels -- from our public institutions down to our own individual lives.”
Our challenge is the same it has always been, in every movement to eliminate injustice and oppression -- from abolitionism to the civil rights movement to our pro-life movement. Abraham Lincoln once said, “(T)he real issue ... is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle.”
Ed also said: “We are all united in one human family -- what hurts one hurts us all. Because either everybody’s life matters or nobody’s life matters.”
That includes everyone we watch on TV, who steps up to the plate to serve or say their piece. Let’s drop the devaluing, dehumanizing and disposing. Everything might just become a little more humane if we insist on it.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.