In thinking about how to live in Trump’s America, I am thinking through moral foundations that will guide subsequent actions and stances. What are the spiritual nonnegotiable bases for how to live. The 3 foundations I have identified, based on my spiritual and religious upbringing, are love, truth and grace (coming January 16).
The Foundation of Truth
Burnt Fingers and Too Many M&Ms
Truth is the accuracy of a thing, idea or person. A truthful person can speak and act from actual facts of a matter. Trust is one’s reliance on the accuracy of a thing, idea or person. My mother told me that if I touched the oven, my finger will get burned. I touched the oven and my finger got burned. A hot oven will burn you. My mother’s words, after she iced my finger, were realized to be trustworthy. I tell my children that hitting is wrong and that there will be consequences. One child hits another and gets spends time in her room. The consequences showed up right on schedule. Hopefully, by being reliable in dealing out consequences for hitting, my child will trust my words. If my words are trustworthy, then when I say that I love her and she can come to me in any situation she will know that she is loved and supported.
Yesterday morning, I got on the scale and it read the highest number ever. I know why: I ate all the M&Ms and that package of cookies and that 4th piece of pizza. In adulthood, truth exposes the adult as much as the word around him. I had to take a good look in the mirror and realize that I have been mistreating my body. Truthfulness turned inward is honesty. And honesty about one’s flaws is humility. Now, can I trust myself to put in the effort to reverse a true trend within my health? Time will tell.
I do not trust Mr. Trump because he is not truthful. He is also not honest, even with himself. Does he know the most about national security? Nope. This lack of humility is almost pathological. And if he cannot live in the truth, then how can anyone trust him?
Falsehood has real consequences. Discredit the truth on national security and people will get hurt. Discredit the real consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act and people will suffer. Ultimately, falsehood kills. Falsehood about bridge technology leads to falling bridges. Falsehood about medicine leads to rampant disease. Falsehood about a particular race or religion leads to genocide. Falsehood about oneself leads to misery. As it stands, it really is the truth that sets us free.
I am very distant from Mr. Trump, but I am not outside of the impact-zone of his decisions. Furthermore, I want my children and my community to operate in the truth. That being the case, if truth does set us free, then I have to be pathologically addicted to the truth.
Meaning of Truth
Truthfulness as a moral foundation means 1) seeking and knowing the truth, 2) defending the truth and 3) exposing the falsehood.
Seeking and knowing the truth means reading and listening to a lot of voices. It requires personal silence to make room for the voices I need to be hearing. Seeking the truth requires self-awareness of my own ignorance. Finally, seeking and knowing the truth requires judgement to know when a particular truth is relevant.
Defending the truth requires that I know the truth. I can defend my Muslim neighbors from falsehoods and discrimination if I know what Islam actually teaches and if I know actual Muslims. So it is that I need to read the Quran and meet Muslims. Likewise for my Mormon neighbors, my immigrant neighbors, my elderly neighbors, my African-American neighbors, etc. I have so much ignorance, yet a deep awareness of my many blind spots. It will probably take me my whole life to know all that I need to know.
Defending the truth also requires moral courage to speak up when that truth is threatened. It means being willing to speak the truth about my Muslim neighbors because falsehoods do threaten them. Exposing a lie is a necessary way to love your vulnerable neighbors.
Living in Mr. Trump’s America will challenge lovers of truth. I fear that truth will begin to matter less and less. I still firmly believe, as surely as that oven burnt my finger many years ago, that truth can set us free. Let us be free indeed. And let us lead others to the light of truth.