A year ago at the Golden Globe awards, Oprah Winfrey spoke glowingly of speaking “your truth.” The instant I heard her say it, I felt an internal dissonance. It was similar to my grammatical cringe when, on a trip to Wal-mart, I overhear someone say “We was at karaoke last night.”
“Your truth” is to philosophy, what “we was” is to grammar.
The beauty and very definition of “truth” is that it exists unaffected by subjective interpretation. In fact, that word — truth — is what we use to describe what exists before it hits our own lenses. Truth exists independently, insulated from concepts like opinion, belief, interpretation, conclusion, outlook, perspective, standpoint. The truth is not some fungible commodity, and doesn’t belong to anyone. A possessive pronoun next to the word robs its meaning.
I was reminded of this oxymoronic, make-up-crap-as-you-go assertion of truth the past few weeks while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi describes a barrier at our southern border — which she agreed to generously fund just a few short years ago — as “immoral.” Walls are everywhere. I’m sitting inside four of them right now to keep out kids and cold. Celebrities have them around their homes. Normal people have them around their homes. The Vatican has one. China has a great one. Nancy probably has one, too. So if Nancy’s right, this walled world is rife with immorality. (OK, the world actually is rife with immorality… but not because of walls.)
So, who gave Nancy Pelosi the power to both declare a wall immoral, and advocate for partial-birth abortion? That moral cacophony may sound like the Tabernacle Choir in “her” truth but it certainly doesn’t exist in THE truth.
Right now in Idaho a legal challenge is underway after a federal judge mandated that the taxpayers pay for a transgender prison inmate’s elective genital surgery. A more complete look at this complicated case will have to wait for another column, but my radio co-host and I were alerted to a micro-controversy over what the surgery is called. Some say it is actually gender confirmation (not reassignment) surgery. The distinction is significant because it attempts to put the location of truth inside the patient as opposed to existing as a general observational medical consensus.
While I have compassion for anyone who struggles with this deep aspect of their identity, I do believe medical terms should not include references that are in political and moral dispute. The truth in this case, medically, is that an individual is exchanging a penis for a surgically sculpted vagina. It is a genitalia removal and replacement. If the progressive movement has separated the idea of gender from biology, it is disingenuous to insist it remains in the medical realm. We don’t call breast augmentation “confidence booster surgery.” We don’t call back hair removal a “swimming pool non-embarrassment procedure.”
So then, why would we call an exchange of genitalia “gender confirmation” when in every other procedure we refer to the anatomy affected, as opposed to the psychology corrected? Well, the answer to that is pretty easy. Who wouldn’t want their own complicated internal psychological journey reinforced with the external language of clinical truth? Some groups are afforded that luxury. Most are not.
I believe Oprah wants what all of us would like: to equate our own individual interpretation of the truth as truth itself. But that’s fairy dust. It’s unicorns and rainbows. And in a political environment with fluctuating definitions, mixed in with hostility, mixed in with a generally deteriorating capacity for humans to think critically, it’s unbelievable dangerous.
Hitler created his own truth that Jews and other “undesirables” were subhuman. Those advocating the more gradual holocaust of abortion have created their own truth using words like fetus and tissue.
The whole basis of intersectionality is assigning values to opinions based on demographic checkmarks. It’s not more than a few leaps before the value on opinion becomes a value on freedoms, and then life itself. The less tethered we are to the idea of an independent truth we all seek, the more dangerous we become to each other.
I don’t have a truth. You don’t have a truth. There’s just… truth. And it’s more important than ever.