Misleading facts about congress
Thanks to technology, the internet, social media, cell phone apps, etc. I don’t think that anyone would argue that we have access to more information than ever before. In fact, the flood of information has become so great that it often overwhelms our ability to process it. Worse, it often makes it next to impossible to distinguish between information that is true from that which is not.
The problem with this mass of uncritically presented information is that truth often gets lost. We speak of true facts versus false facts. The first is redundant. The second one is an oxymoron. If a fact is, indeed, a fact, then it must be true.
I recently received an email from a friend asking me to pass on something he received from another friend on to twenty of my email contacts and/or Facebook friends. The email he received was regarding something called the Congressional Reform Act of 2017. The author/originator of this email is anonymous. There is no such act, at least not yet. The email is nothing more than a modern version of the old chain letter in which one person passes it on to a number of others who, in turn, pass it on, and so forth, taking advantage of the exponential increase in numbers of people who will receive this.
The email lists a number of the more egregious excesses and abuses of our congressmen and senators and proposes this act to correct those. The alleged wrongs are guaranteed to raise the indignation and anger of the reader. Congressmen can vote themselves pay raises whenever they wish, they are exempt from Social Security, they are exempt from abiding by the laws that we are subject too, and so on. The problem is that most of the information is plain wrong. I did not take more than five minutes of fact checking some of the claims of the author of this chain email to verify that things were not as he (or she) claimed.
Now, mind you, I have no love for our elected representatives. I, like many others, have been frustrated and angry at the failure of our elected officials to act in the best interests of those who put them in office. I deplore the hyper-partisan atmosphere present in our government today, the inability of legislators to pass meaningful legislation; the failure to address such pressing issues as our deficit and debt, immigration reform, tax reform, health care reform; failure to pursue clean, sustainable energy sources; and much more. I am no fan of what is happening in government today. The inefficiency and incompetence of those who presume to lead us sometimes drives me nuts and makes me wonder if there is not something in the water in Washington that renders those who work there imbeciles.
I know that there are many reasonable, intelligent people out there who care about our country, work hard to make things better for themselves as well as others, and don’t get much press because they are behind the scenes. I work hard to keep my personal house in order. I pay my taxes. I donate to charitable causes. I try to be productive. The only place I really register in the overall picture of what is happening to our country is through my vote, and vote I do. It is an imperfect, cumbersome, ponderous process but I have yet to hear of a better one. I am not into governance by raw emotion, rage, intolerance, and contrived facts. There is enough of that in third world countries and we see where that gets them.
We have only a very limited ability to experience things for ourselves. The vast majority of what we know comes from sources we trust because they have some degree of authority. We believed the things taught to us in school, about history, science, mathematics, and more because we believed that our teachers, i.e. we held them in high regard with respect to their authority to present us with facts. This used to be true with news. We believed the news because we subscribed to the knowledge and objectivity, the authority of our broadcast journalists. At one time, we believed politicians, hard as that may be to fathom.
This dilemma applies to my own profession of medicine. Medical facts used to be just that. Now, objective research, data gathering, and critical scrutiny of medical claims has been replaced by economic considerations, marketing, and hyped claims for new products, procedures, or processes. For a physician, obtaining reliable, objective information with which to make decisions that impact the care of our patients has become a challenge of wading through a lot of worthless information, much of it promulgated by people and companies that want to sell me something, to find good information that I can use.
So, I do not pass on email chains without checking them out and neither should you. Before you waste your energy getting all hot and bothered about some obvious wrong, make sure of your facts so you don’t waste all that emotion on some falsehood. Good information is out there. You just have to take a little time to search it out.
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