Facts only

I’m not a political writer. Never have been, never wanted to be.

I write about sports, having first started as a high school sophomore signed up for Journalism elective class, continuing into my collegiate days as Sports Editor of The Carroll News and into my first professional job as a collegiate Sports Information Director.

Between all the baseball columns and basketball recaps, however, I did pay attention to politics. My mind became intrigued with politics during my junior year of high school in 2008, when we spent our entire Fall semester of Journalism class discussing the upcoming election.

After being elected Editor in Chief of The CN before my senior year of college, I was more than ever forced to open my mind beyond the realm of sports. I suddenly had to know about Arts & Life, Campus Life and perhaps most importantly, World News.

I educated myself each Tuesday deadline night by reading and editing every single article in that week’s 20-page newspaper, including the two-page World News section. I was fortunate to have talented writers and editors working with me who wrote articulate articles that I read, re-read, re-read again, and re-read once more before OK’ing for print.

Reading those World News articles sparked a new interest in me: I wanted to know what was happening in the world around me. Living in one’s personal bubble can be comforting and reassuring, but you don’t really learn anything in this life until you think big picture and empathize with others by trying to understand their world experience compared to yours. I wanted to have a clue about politics and issues that affected not just me, but the world around me. I didn’t want to simply be another brainless robot with no critical thinking skills, no care for the world that surrounds them.

Put simply, I didn’t want to be ignorant. I have a brain and I want to use it.

Believe me: I’m far from a political know-it-all. FAR from. I can tell you Kobe Bryant shot just 6-of-24 but also had 15 rebounds in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals, but I couldn’t name the Governor of every state. I could tell you Rich Gannon won the 2002 NFL MVP with 26 touchdown passes and a then-NFL record 418 completions in 618 attempts, but my mind starts to blank when naming U.S. Presidents in reverse-order before from present to past before JFK.

But I do have a brain. I do read articles and not just the misleading headlines. I do question the world around me, and not simply accept it because that’s just the way it is. Facts are important, and so is critical thinking.

However, if there’s one thing the 2016 Presidential Election race taught me, it’s this: Facts don’t matter. At least, not anymore.

If they did, there’s no way Donald Trump would be or could be elected the next President of the United States.

It’s the political season. Facts don’t matter, right?,” said San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich the day before the election. “You just say what you want to say and life goes on. Nobody cares. It doesn’t have to be true. It doesn’t even have to be close. You just say whatever you want.”

And that was precisely Donald Trump’s game plan for winning the 2016 Presidential Election.

PolitiFact, a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials in American politics, has done their homework on Trump. And he failed.

Fifteen percent of Trump’s statements during his campaign were rated as ‘true’ or ‘mostly true,’ as opposed to 48 percent for Obama for contextual purposes. Conversely, a combined 70 percent of Trump’s statements graded at ‘mostly false,’ ‘false’ or ‘Pants on Fire’ false. Obama grades at just 26 percent in those same three false categories.

Trump, a former reality TV star best known for saying “you’re fired,” consistently claimed throughout his Presidential campaign that he opposed the War in Iraq. False.

He claimed there could be 30 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., and used these types of inaccurate figures to gather support for his “build the wall” fantasy. However, this claim is also false.

After winning the New Hampshire primary in February, Trump claimed the current unemployment figures were inaccurate and that unemployment could be as high as 42 percent. Again, not only is this claim completely baseless and unrealistic, it’s just not true.

As if the campaign built on false claims wasn’t alarming enough, there were also the socially unjust statements he made along the way, too.

In June, Trump claimed he advocated for his supporters to be respectful and kind to protesters (another lie) before pointing in the crowd and saying “look at my African-American over here.” A bit of an unsettling tone, referring to a supporter as an object of possession and describing said supporter only by his race.

Last August, Trump attacked the Latino community by saying “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” in a disturbing generalization of an entire culture of people.

However, Trump wasn’t limited to just African-Americans and Latinos; he also attacked the Muslim community by calling for a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Again, this is a frightening and unfair generalization of an entire culture.

After all, if we’re going to group all Latinos together as “rapists” and all Muslims as having “great hatred towards Americans,” then it’s only fair that we group all white Americans as supporters of slavery and institutional racism.

But we know this is not how the world works. It’s not how reality works. Fortunately for Trump, he doesn’t live in reality, except for reality TV, that is.

Yet as the campaign rolled on and Election Day drew closer, the false claims and unfair generalizations didn’t bother his supporters. If anything, it motivated them.

So as Trump added to his list of lies, claiming climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese despite a scientific consensus that Earth is indeed warming, his supporters just shut their ears, closed their eyes and echoed hate-mongering chants such as “lock her up,” while never quite thinking if they were being sold bullshit all along.

Trump attacked the Gold Star parents of a slain Muslim-American soldier, he mocked a disabled New York Times reporter, and objectified woman by saying he likes to “grab them by the pussy” because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

But, despite all of his downfalls, Trump is indeed a businessman. After all, his list of failed business ventures is quite impressive: TrumpMortgage, TrumpFinancial, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Trump Shuttle, GoTrump.com, Trump vodka, Trump steaks, Trump Taj, Trump Castle, Trump Plaza, Trump Dubai, Trump Toronto, Trump Hollywood and Trump University, to name a few.

Again, the facts don’t matter. If they did, I wouldn’t even be writing this column and millions of Americans wouldn’t be having difficult conversations today about their future and their families’ future.

Following the results of Tuesday night’s President Election, some have said democracy is broken. That, I would argue, is not true. Democracy worked exactly as it was meant to on Tuesday night, as did the Electoral College.

The entire point of the EC is to balance the voices of American citizens, so those in rural America can have their voices be heard just as loudly as those who live in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. And have their voices heard they did; we just underestimated how much hatred and bitterness exists in those rural American voices.

Life is ironic. You’re running late to work, so naturally you catch every red light. You’re tired when you wake up but your mind is racing when it’s time to hit the pillow. These are the simple ironies of life, not the ones that define the future of a country.

So yes, I find it ironic that in the year 2016, when nearly the entire American public owns a five-ounce computing device in their pocket that’s capable of discovering any information you desire, that we don’t fact check. We don’t critically think. We simply just hear and accept as fact. No questioning, no second-guessing, no curiosity.

I get it, I do. It makes sense. After all, it’s how we were raised. You’re raised not to questions your parents decisions, not to question your teacher, but to simply comply and accept.

But there comes a point in each adult’s life when it’s time to wake up, when it’s time to think for yourself. Being given step-by-step direction as a child is one thing because, well, you’re a child. But as an adult? Why should you believe everything you hear or see? You shouldn’t. You should always question, thinking “why?” and when you get an answer to that why, ask it again. This is perhaps the greatest life-lesson I ever learned from journalism.

It’s been less than 12 hours since Donald Trump delivered his victory speech in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. I don’t know where the future of the country is headed, but even as a white adult male, I’m concerned.

I’m concerned not just for myself and my families’ well-being, but for those around me, particularly my friends of color, female friends, or anyone else who has had their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or gender unfairly criticized and generalized by our soon-to-be President.

And even if I had no African-American friends, no Hispanic friends, no female friends, I’d still be just as concerned. Why? Because, despite what our individualistic culture wants us to believe, we have to look out for each other. We have to protect each other, we have to respect each other and we have to be willing to understand one another’s world experience contrasted to our own. If you don’t empathize for your neighbor when their house is burning down, it’s only a matter of time until yours goes up in flames, too.

After all, the first word in our country’s name is ‘United.’

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