The kerfluffle (and it is truly a kerfluffle, nothing more) about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s native American ancestry provides the backdrop to the overarching question of whether she’s entitled to facts or truth. Her truth.
A defender of the faith offered this in response to the ridicule sent Warren’s way.
Warren suffers from epistemic injustice where her assertions of heritage are given unjustly low weight based on stereotypes associated w/her identity. It’s her story, her family’s story, her truth. Why a need to deny her identity that has informed her entire life?
If Warren family lore was that they were, to some extent, Cherokee, is that not enough for her to believe it’s so? Is her belief not good enough to accept the fact that she believes? And if her belief is sincere, what difference does it make that the facts don’t bear her out?
Whether Warren is of Native American heritage or not is good for some lulz, but so what? Maybe she is. Maybe she isn’t. It’s not as though she made it up out of whole cloth, assuming that it was her family’s “story” and “her truth.”
This isn’t about Warren, so keep your opinions about Warren to yourself. This is about the relative merit of facts v. truth, of whether people who believe in something are absolved from gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, facts. Even if we can accept the premise that their belief is sincere, is that good enough to take it the next step and apply that belief as reality? Or are we just coddling the believers by joining in their factless delusions?
Facts are objective.
Truth is subjective.
So if being Native American is Warren’s truth, do we let her have it, let it be “the truth” because it’s “her truth,” or do we sit her down and tell her something that’s going to make her sad? And moving beyond Warren, what of the many people who similarly believe their own truth despite the facts? Are they entitled to it, and does it mean the rest of us have to respect their truth and acquiesce in their self-delusion?
Moving one step further away, can we solve societal problems, form public policy, based upon people’s “truth” even if it’s nothing more than their belief, flying in the face of facts? Does anything get fixed by indulging delusions?
There isn’t much of a question that our vulgar, amoral, ignoramus president spews a never-ending stream of lies, nonsense and, on a good day, merely inappropriate gibberish. But there was never any expectation of better from him. Is the alternative of a fantasy world of “her truth,” offered with better intentions, a better option? When no one gives a damn about facts or logic, these are the questions presented. Not much of an option, really.