The Most Basic Problem in America Today

The Most Basic Problem in America Today February 18, 2023

The Most Basic Problem in America Today

What an audacious thing to dare to say! What is the most basic problem in America today? I’ve lived in America my whole live, with the exception of one year in Germany, and I have seen it change so dramatically that it is almost unrecognizable. When I sit back and wonder what is the most basic problem facing America today and causing so much chaos and confusion in America today, I cannot help but think of this blog.

No matter what I say here, someone will contradict it. It matters not how factual I know it to be; someone will contradict it. In America today, as among my own readers, there is no generally agreed upon set of facts. Many, perhaps most, people seem to have given up on facts.

It is so predictable that it is boring. I know that no matter what I write here, no matter how obvious it is, no matter how settled it is in reality, someone and usually several readers will contradict it with one or more “alternative facts.”

The fact that I hold a PhD in Religious Studies means nothing to many people; most people think they know the truth of religion and especially theology better than someone who studied them for many years.

The fact that I am an expert researcher who knows how to find the facts about most of the subjects I write about here means nothing to many; they would rather believe a know-nothing radio talk show host than a scholar.

Am I being arrogant? Is a medical doctor with many years of education and experience arrogant if he says “vaccinations are rarely unsafe and all children should be vaccinated?” What if she is a respected epidemiologist? Nope. Some people will still not believe her.

If I say here that the earth is round, not flat, someone will contradict me by pointing out that the earth is actually oblong. If I say here that the sky is blue, someone will explain that “blueness” is actually in the brain. If I say here that the Civil War was about slavery someone will say here that it was about states’ rights. If I say here that unarmed black men are more likely to be shot and killed by police, someone will claim that more unarmed white men are shot by police (ignoring that what I said was as “more likely”).

But what happens here is just a microcosm of America in general. There are no generally accepted facts anymore. (And I expect someone will contradict me about that, of course!) Everything, without exception, even this sentence, is not only debatable but debated.

And a huge problem with this situation is that the skepticism about facts is filtering into education. Teachers are increasingly afraid to state anything as true, as factual. Every truth claim, every statements of fact, is likely to offend someone. After all, “You have your truth and I have mine.”

I often struggle with whether to approve and post here comments that contradict what I know to be true. But, then, someone will say. “You can’t know anything is ‘true’.” “And if you ‘censor’ a contrary opinion, you’re not open-minded.” True, I am not open-minded about everything. Some claims are just dumb, stupid, ignorant. I know that someone will accuse me of arrogance for saying that. And that’s the problem I’m pointing out.

Is everything merely opinion? Are there no facts? Increasingly, anyway, that is the prevailing opinion in America. Except, of course, it isn’t. Most people believe that what they believe, however unreal it may be, is true. Except when they are confronted with the errors in their beliefs in which case they revert to “Well, I have my opinion and you have yours.” It’s a paradoxical social situation.

The situation I am decrying here is called “populism of knowledge.” Generally speaking, people do not respect scholars. Many still respect “experts,” but only if they support what they want to believe.

I recently saw a one frame political cartoon that showed a news show director saying to the cameraman and news anchor, “Lights! Camera! Fiction” and pointing at the anchor news reader.

I believe it is nearly impossible to have real community (a much misused word these days) without a general agreement about some facts. And what should be the ultimate arbiters of public facts? Evidence and reason, of course. But, today, in America, there is no general agreement about that, either.

This situation is just about enough to drive anyone who cares about truth to despair. If your audience is large enough, there is nothing you (I) can say that will not be countered by someone as false. So, the way I handle that here is that if someone contradicts something I wrote, I expected him or her to offer evidence and reason. Mere assertions will not impress me and I will no longer post them here. “You’re wrong” will not be enough. And I do not allow links. So if you disagree, say why concisely and succinctly and give solid, intersubjective reasons. Do I think this will solve the problem? No, except here, at least partially and to some extent.

*Note: If you comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), addressed to me, on topic, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of links and pictures.*

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