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  • Writer's pictureJoe

Tillerson on facts

During his commencement speech to the Virginia Military Institute in May 2018 a few months following his ousting via Twitter, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson waxed philosophical when he said:

If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.

Tillerson's moral condemnation of lying and of people who accept lying to serve their ideological purposes seems to overlook that people ought to be thinking more critically about what it is that they are being told. The reality is that people who believe the liars deserve greater blame than the people spewing the lies.

Contrast what Tillerson has said with the lessons you should have learned as a child. It's one thing for your friends to jump from the bridge; it's another story for you follow them. No matter which side of the moral consequentialism divide we be most comfortable, the consequences of our decisions matter for getting on in our lives. Just because others have done or said something, doesn't mean that we must follow them--even if we are fully emotionally invested with the people who jump from the bridge or lie.

A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not and begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness and demand our pursuit of America's future be fact-based -- not based on wishful thinking, not hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises, but with a clear-eyed view of the facts as they are, and guided by the truth that will set us free to seek solutions to our most daunting challenges.

We esteem facts, according to Tillerson, because of what they are and what they stand for, guided by the truth, and how that truth, while not always palatable or easy to obtain, serves as a beacon to protect our freedom.

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