Getting the Facts

The dark side of human nature seems to delight in finding fault with others, even to the point of making baseless accusations that sound really stupid when the truth is revealed.  I was just reading a news story about an Oregon mayor who made a number of public allegations against his police department that turned out to be untrue.  I don’t know if the mayor will apologize for his actions, but I believe any responsible, honest person would.  What I don’t understand is why so many people make false statements about others without checking their facts when information is so readily accessible.

I think part of the problem is that people are eager to repeat falsehoods when the allegations coincide with what they want to believe.  Several years ago, I worked for a mayor who became aware of damaging information about another public official.  The mayor was careful to verify the facts and gave the other official opportunities to take appropriate action.  The other person instead responded with attacks against the mayor and threats of litigation.  It was disheartening to see how political opponents of the mayor were quick to take up the defense of the accused public official despite overwhelming and convincing evidence of the truth of the charges.  When the mayor’s allegations were verified and the offending public official was forced from office, I do not recall ever seeing any of his supporters who attacked the mayor make any kind of apology.

Maybe Donald Trump’s recent decision to abandon a presidential bid was a form of apology for continuing to question President Obama’s place of birth long after sufficient evidence was available to verify the truth.  Regardless of political affiliation, it should be easy to understand that when a birth certificate certified by relevant state officials and a newspaper birth announcement from 1961 contain the same information there can be little room for manipulation of the facts.  Obviously, those who want to remain unconvinced will find ways to question or ignore anything that contradicts their point of view.

Most of us are guilty to some extent of seeing things we want to see, although I would hope that when the matter is serious we would insist on some standard of truth.  Anyone who checks out the Snopes website at will see firsthand evidence of how many widely circulated stories are simply untrue.  I remember being touched by a letter I received many years before the Internet was popular that was seeking donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation on behalf of a young cancer patient.  I checked out the letter and found it to be a hoax.  I should not have been surprised when, years later, I received the same letter as an e-mail message.

This may be one of my last blog postings because I recently received an e-mail telling me I have won an international lottery.  I just mailed in $75 to claim my winning prize of $12 million, and I will be retiring to a life of ease as soon as the money arrives.  In the meantime, I plan to check my facts and make sure I do not repeat idiotic accusations against other people, whether I like them or not.