“Truth, Justice and the American Way…”

(June 1938 – DC Comics)


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Blog 13 – July 2021 M.Hines

Superman’s motto extolls the virtues of our nation when he’s first introduced on the radio June, 1938.  The Historic records of that precarious year reflect the battles of goodness and evil; chaos and civility: Hitler marched into Austria, the Munich Pact was made between Britain, France and Italy; Orson Welles broadcasted his adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, creating a nationwide panic as listeners believed aliens had actually landed in New Jersey; the  Fair Labor Standards Act established a minimum wage;  Franklin D. Roosevelt was President and John N. Garner his VP;   Federal spending was $6.84 billion, and the cost of a first class stamp was 3 cents (https://www.infoplease.com/year/1938).

The “Can Do” Generation exemplified “the better angels of our nature” during the 1938 darker period of Nationalism, War, Genocide, Economic Depression, and world despair. But like other countries, America is not immune to a complex and contradictory path of history.      

This unique compilation of people, voices, beliefs, dreams and nightmares, somehow survived to become America.   Glued together with the accepted rule of law – whether satisfied with a specific legal decision or not – evolving and progressing through the ying and yang of debate and despair, goodness and evil. Our Democracy keeps expanding and growing, sometimes despite itself, but always aiming for the basic, indisputable, accepted truths the forefather’s words established in the beginning: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”  

We the People have a say to a degree unlike any other country, yet freedoms and equality are still not realized in an ‘equitable’ way.  Our assumed ‘inalienable right’ to cast our opinion cannot be taken for granted.  We the People are the gatekeepers, the thermostat of our Democracy. Left, Middle, Right; each is important to the function of the whole. Each pulls and pushes responding to the constant changes; adjusting and aligning our temperature, finding the balance,  and accommodating the needs and values in the moment.

As any Veteran will attest, ‘Freedom isn’t free’. The Self-Governance America has accepted, the responsibility we’ve all taken on – like a simmering pot- is not something to be left unwatched or unattended.  We can’t put it on autopilot and assume it will work. We can’t be complacent and so involved in our daily grind, we ignore or delegate our responsibility; our contribution.  We are an exception; this place with so many contradicting voices, opinions, and beliefs makes us so. This is a country unique in its capacity to form a consensus despite the kaleidoscopic views, despite the disagreements.   And, we have always been able to unite for the important stuff; trauma or victory. Our unity is maintained and strengthened with the knowledge that we can do better; we’re just not ‘there’ yet.   

So, in the spirit of Superman, ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’, I went in search of answers to that infamous question: “What is Truth”?

The Human Systems Dynamics Institute divides ‘truth’ into four types:

“FOUR TRUTHS” (https://www.hsdinstitute.ort/resources/four-truths.html)

  1. SUBJECTIVE: How an individual sees or experiences the world
    1. “Today is a good day for me.”

[Or: I say it’s too hot to work, but my boss say’s the weather’s perfect]

  • NORMATIVE:  What we, as a group, agree is true.
    • “English speakers agreed to use the word ‘day’ to name that time when the sky is lit by the sun.”

[Or: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” ]

  • OBJECTIVE: What exists and can be proved in this physicality
    • “The sun moves across the sky each day”

[Or: A compass will point north, south, east or west].

  • COMPLEX: Recognizes the validity of [each of these above-mentioned truths] and allows you to focus on the one [that’s] most useful at any given time.
    • “The sun is up; the day is bright. Today is a good day for Mom, so let’s take advantage of that and ask for ice cream for dinner.”

[Or: It’s only 7:00pm, the weather is mild, my foot has healed, so we can walk another mile.]

Sounds like a conversation better suited for a bunch of professorial ‘talking-heads’ you say? Why should this even matter to ‘an average person’ like me? 

With recent history’s dangerous practice of bending and twisting truth and facts to deceive others for personal gain, “using [the Four Truths] method provides a basis for our inquiries and questions [to help us find answers and clarification].

So ‘Professorial’ or ‘Average thinker’, how we define truth definitely matters, especially when that ‘concept’ of truth is the basis our society was built on. Or, what ‘NORMATIVE’ truth explains as: “what we as a group agree is true…”

We hold these truths to be self-evident….”

The “Four Truths” are tools to help everyone:

  • (1) “Identify [the] similarities and differences between us and things”
  • (2) “Find common ground for problem-solving and decision making”
  • (3) “Understand the perspectives and actions of those around us” (https://www.hsdinstitute.ort/resources/four-truths.html)

These three attributes form the Achilles’ heel in the body of any society. Vital to the successful function, they are also the most vulnerable of components.  Three appendages that work together to form the foundation for a unified, peaceful society beneficial to all. But, like any foundation, if one element is weakened or missing, the whole structure is in peril.

Of the “Four Truths” listed above, the one most should be familiar with over these past recent years is Complex Truth: ‘How can I combine various established facts (truths)  to support my claims, and make listeners believe everything I tell them is just as true.’  After all, everything has some element of truth to it, right?  Maybe. Truth, like tools can be manipulated. When altered and bent, taken out of context; or when opinion is presented as proven fact, the key support to our solid foundation (the accepted and factual truth upon which everything else is built upon) is eroded. Our country’s strength is in our Union, yet our first line of defense – Truth , is also the first to be assaulted.

Truth helps us understand our similarities and differences. Acknowledging the truth helps us to stay united; finding common ground necessary for solving problems, making just, fair and equitable laws and decisions. 

An ancient Chinese proverb states: “Tell me and I forget, Show me and I remember, Involve me and I understand.”  

(1) Accepting known truths – (NORMATIVE & OBJECTIVE TRUTH) truth we all agree upon and proven facts.

(2) Choosing to involve ourselves – (COMPLEX TRUTH) that recognizes the truth in many things but frees us to focus on the important truth of the moment, helps us to,

(3) Understand the truth – (SUBJECTIVE TRUTH) how we see and experience the world, bringing us closer to reaching the high bar of our forefather’s words:

“One Nation, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all…”