Opinion: Pursue truth, restore civil discourse

Patrick Colbeck

I have found the following proverb to be true: “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Unfortunately, today we live in a political environment filled with one-sided narratives. In this environment, what is “right” or “wrong” is more a feature of which news network you watch than stubborn things like facts. In such an environment, it is difficult if not impossible to reasonably discern what is truly right.

There are numerous examples of how this political environment impedes us from discerning the truth. A recent example would be the current conduct of the impeachment proceedings. H Res 660 passed by the U.S. House of Representatives specified an impeachment inquiry process designed to be one-sided with no respect for due process protections for President Donald Trump under the 6th Amendment. Was the purpose of such a process to discern the truth or control the narrative?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined from left by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announces they are pushing ahead with two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

One also experiences this polarized environment on university campuses where conservative speakers are routinely shouted down or prohibited from speaking at all. 

Students who disagree with the political views of their professors risk poor grades or the wrath of “Bias Response Teams." In fact, showing support for Trump in our schools can result in buttons being ripped off shirts or disciplinary actions for teachers who refuse to “tow the line."

Schools are the institutions where we prepare our next generation of leaders. When educators in position of authority support such actions are they promoting the discernment of truth or attempting to control the narrative?

In George Orwell’s classic book "1984," the government’s “Ministry of Truth” did its best to erase stubborn things like facts from the collective memory. They used propaganda in conjunction with a mass surveillance state remarkably similar to that of the modern-day Chinese government to control the thoughts and actions of their citizens. Today, Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is also sadly manifest in America via one-sided media outlets, one-sided Congressional investigations, and one-sided education narratives.

Our nation needs to restore an appreciation for the pursuit of the truth. The truth may be uncomfortable for some, but it is the only sound basis for solving the problems that we face as a nation. 

In order to pursue the truth, we need to restore an appreciation for freedom of speech and civil discourse. 

Calling someone a racist or a bigot is not conducive to civil discourse. Rather, these tactics are designed to silence opposition and promote a one-sided narrative. Freedom is too precious to be silenced by name-calling. Freedom is preserved by pursuing the truth. It is the truth which not only sets us free, it keeps us free.

Patrick Colbeck is a former Michigan state senator and gubernatorial candidate.