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The impeachment of truth | Opinion

By Arlene Flaherty, OP

There is much to bemoan in the aftermath of the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.

Whether you agree or disagree with the ultimate decision, there is palpable bipartisan consternation at GOP leader McConnell’s postscript indictment of the former president. How could it be that Sen. McConnell voted to acquit former President Trump of the charge of inciting the riot on the nation’s Capitol while stating at the conclusion of the trial that he regards Donald Trump as being “practically and morally responsible for the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol”?

While some decry McConnell’s actions as a traitorous disavowal of the GOP’s pro-Trump wing, others see it as an avoidance of responsibility; others, a genuflection to the disgruntled financiers of the party; still others see it as a parsing of truth.

Who is satisfied that the truth regarding former President Trump’s culpability was well-served by the defense that you cannot remove a former president from office since he is technically not in office? This is hardly a resounding confirmation of innocence.

On the contrary, it is a dodging of the truth-seeking and truth-speaking responsibilities entrusted to our elected leaders by the Constitution of the United States.

Sadly, we have seen this pattern of government leaders parsing the truth before. It’s not all that long ago that former President Clinton defended his innocence in the Monica Lewinsky affair using a similar pattern of reasoning. While claiming innocence of the charge that he lied to grand jury investigators, Clinton offered that truth, in his case, hinged on “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

It has become increasingly evident that truth-telling and truth-defending no longer remain reliable expectations of our government leaders. But this virus is widespread; indeed it is also a pandemic.

Just consider how much of our media functions to discredit, deny or fashion truth into its own political perspectives and worldviews. Today, most of us seek information from media sources that reliably confirm what we already think or know. Few media outlets provide balanced perspectives meant to challenge us to assess and evaluate for ourselves where truth abides.

Social media is a notorious perpetrator of untruths. What is really concerning is the percentage of people for whom social media is their primary source of news.

Why does it matter? Why should we care about it? What can we do about it?

Admittedly, truth is rarely absolute and unqualified. Discerning truth requires a willingness to sift through information while discerning facts and diverse perspectives. Truth is not served by avoiding, ignoring or disclaiming that which causes dissonance in our thinking, acting or believing.

Coming to truth is not just the outcome of some detached or so-called neutral calculus. It involves critical thinking as well as respectful listening and openness to dialogue with those who see from different perspectives.

Coming to truth requires guidance from character, and it is supported by moral principles. Though not every coming-to-truth requires this this kind of process, can we require so much less than this when the integrity of our democracy is at stake?

Truth matters because we require it to live peacefully, justly and caringly with one another. Truth matters because it holds the power to transform our lives — personally, and collectively. Truth matters because it defends us from the chaos and violence that untruth sows in its wake.

For Americans, the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump should hold much more meaning than is contained in the verdict that was issued. We can, and must, see in it the deeper challenge and call to uphold personally, and collectively, the standards required by truth, no matter the cost.

After witnessing the events of Jan. 6, the alternative is too frightening an option.

We now know the verdict in the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump. But the jury is still out regarding America’s impeachment of truth. What will be our verdict?

A former, longtime resident of Jersey City, Sister Arlene Flaherty is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Blauvet, New York.

Send letters to the editor and guest columns for The Jersey Journal to jjletters@jjournal.com.

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