I’m fifty three. Scorpio. Weaned at six weeks. Earned an impossibly low mathematics score of 13 on the ACT. Have been married for twenty-three years. In our home, my wife does far more housework than I. This is my truth. If I described myself any differently, I’d be lying.
That’s my Mattifesto. I feel the need to share because I’m in a gouge-my-eyeballs-out state of apoplexy over the growing acceptance of alternative facts and the lie-filled “like.” Yet, as disheartened as I am by the new realities, I also realize that much of what I believe to be true earned that distinction by merit of its ability to persuade me. In other words, very often I choose to believe things that seem “more true” than any other explanation. The right word is verisimilitude. All the facts I can’t confirm experientially compete with other, related facts for my approval. Truth can come down to a hunch, and I’m biased like everyone else to see things through a different lens. The complexity of the world is such that uncertainty usually wins the day.
But, but, but … I do everything in my power to fact check and verify the things I believe. I want to get it right. Two plus two is always four. Climate change is not a Chinese hoax. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Any alternative to these flat-out truths is a bald-faced lie. Cervantes says it poetically: “The truth stretches and grows thin, but it does not break and always floats on top of falsehood, like oil on water.”
These last couple years of intense political division and the way cynicism has swept over this country won’t reverse course anytime soon—that’s a fact. Consequently, it’s more important than ever to stay engaged, to remember that diverse personalities and opinions are as important to a healthy country as diversity of religion and ethnicity. No matter which side of the political divide you’re on, don’t let yourself be dismissive. They may not be your kind of people, but they’re part of the grand ol’ party of humanity. You share a lot more than you don’t.
Personally, these last couple years have changed me. For starters, my list of enthusiasms has been cropped down to a mere two: travel and the study of history. What matters most to me now is the sanctity of historical fact come alive in an ancient stone column I can rest my cheek on. While my memory for dates and details is poor, nothing satisfies me more than hours-long wanders down old Roman lanes, through quiet villages, vineyards, graveyards, and olive groves under the baleful eyes of thin barking dogs—only to arrive at a church built on the massive tufa-block remains of a Greek temple, where Victoria and I sit for a few minutes with a couple swallows of local wine, our backs against blocks hewn twenty-six hundred years ago.
Far from the Trump’d-up crowd, I sing praises to the truth-thread connecting hard data from a favorite history book with the very same, mentioned-in-the-book stone ruins providing the setting for our picnic, answering my call for things honest, cooling my body.
Matt Sutherland is Editor in Chief at Foreword Reviews. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.