Chacos: The powerful difference between opinion, truth and fact
As the saying goes, opinions are like that unspoken, timid body part. Everyone has one. And as an opinion writer for a couple of local newspapers, I stick mine where the sun doesn’t shine every month.
And although opinions are the lowest form of human knowledge, I love sharing my intellectual laziness on a variety of topics. I often use biased words and share personal viewpoints with no real accountability. And when I need to defend myself, I say something elementary like, “Well that’s just what I believe.” Another equally egocentric example is, “You’re entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine.” Conversation finished. No critical understanding required.
We often distribute opinions with abandon. They’re an easy way for people to feel a sense of power and importance. But over time I’ve learned from my readers that if I don’t want to sound like a complete nutjob with fringe ideas, I should sprinkle in some truth for perceived credibility.
Opinions are far easier to defend when truths are sandwiched into the argument. Most of my strongly worded, passionate opinions are doled out deliberately. I spin them as truth; and to be clear, some of them are not embedded in facts. My truth is simply a perception of the reality I create. And at the heart, most truths are subjective until proven factually. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing and, when used to sway public opinion, can be dangerously potent.
Over time, I’ve been taught many self-evident truths, statements that have never demanded proof, nor debate. I accepted them because I wanted to obey and listen to authority. Not many like to go against the grain when young; it’s a skill learned having to defend a thesis among scholars. But because these universal truths are simply long-held beliefs that have weaved themselves into the fabric of our culture, they have become harder to eradicate from the prefrontal cortex of our personalities.
For example, we base historical truths on an established past, not actual facts from the past. That’s hard to reconcile as we continue to honor Confederate soldiers, we still abuse the Native American population with offensive names, and we still celebrate Columbus with a national holiday.
Taking it one step further, the white supremacist ideology is anti-immigrant, anti-globalist, anti-feminist, and fuels propaganda against Jews, Muslims, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. These are false truths, spoken forcefully and confidently by media personalities and gregarious leaders. These influencers are part of a vicious wolf pack preying on the vulnerable and marginalized. This unfounded, fictitious narrative has detrimental implications when espoused as truth. They are nothing but craftily worded opinions breeding misinformation, spreading hate, and fueling divisiveness.
Indisputable facts should be the easiest to process, like the $100 questions on an episode of “Jeopardy.” Unfortunately, they’re the hardest to prove, like the cost of the expensive-looking dining set on “The Price is Right.” We require more science to prove a fact than to dispute its truth. No one likes to be proven wrong.
For example, there is no evidence that oxygen intake is decreased by wearing a mask, yet we still condemn fact-based, science. A friend recently posted a picture of her wearing two masks, an N-95 and a regular mask. She took the mask off only once, to eat lunch. Her O2 level read 98% after she logged a twelve-hour day in an operating room. Facts are hard to prove, especially when someone’s embedded truths and opinions get in the way.
Again, to take it one step further, there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud in America. Stop using the pithy argument that, “There is no evidence that there isn’t rampant voter fraud.” That simply sounds stupid. That’s a fact.
Unfortunately, today’s reality is inundated with damaging truths that are simply not true. Choosing to stay silent, offering no show of condemnation may result in enabling ethnocentric bigots who will be on the wrong side of history. That may be my opinion, my smoothly worded truth, or maybe that’s a fact.
In the end, what’s the difference if I don’t opine to the public now?
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.