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EDITORIAL – Some people define truth as what they want to believe

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

LAST WEEKEND I published a column about Pope Francis’ visit to Canada and what’s known as the Doctrine of Discovery.

A lot of folks are demanding that the Catholic Church “rescind” the Doctrine of Discovery, which they regard as the rationale for colonization in Canada. The purpose of the column was to point out that the Doctrine has no force and effect in Canada and that repudiating it again, as has been done by the church several times, would only be a symbolic gesture.

Nevertheless, I said, if that gesture would provide comfort, then it should be done.

Reaction to the column was interesting. More than a hundred comments were posted on CFJC’s Facebook page. Many of them were highly critical of the column and of me for publishing it.

Two things stood out. One was that not a single comment that I read challenged the facts as I presented them. There was simply outrage that I had disagreed with the claims being made about the Doctrine, which is actually a series of papal bulls, or decrees.

The other thing is the belief that I shouldn’t be writing about it at all because I have no connection to residential schools. Only those directly affected have a right to talk about the issue, according to this particular point of view.

I find both of these attitudes unfortunate and discouraging. What went on with residential schools is part of the truth and reconciliation discussion. Truth requires respectful discussion and, yes, disagreement at times. But if we open our minds and hearts to it, and challenge each other on the facts, we’ll get there.

That discussion has to involve all of us, indigenous and non-indigenous. Reconciliation is about the restoration of compatibility, of good relations, of respect. We’re all stakeholders in this, and we all have to be part of the conversation.

When people refuse to examine facts and jump immediately to anger and condemnation in response, and when they contend that only some people are allowed into the process, it brings into question whether truth is their true goal. It feels more like an insistence that everyone else accept one version of it that’s based not on critical examination but on a position already determined.

It’s a case of “my way or the highway.”

The media are complicit in this as they discard the journalistic principles of objective investigation in favour of a biased narrative. The state of the media is a topic for another day but it certainly plays a role in what’s happening right now.

Attacking someone as racist or ignorant because they ask questions or hold a different opinion than you do, or trying to cancel them, isn’t good enough.

The only thing that gives me hope is that I know there are many people who truly do want to get to fact-based truths in order to rectify the wrongs of the past.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (9122 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on EDITORIAL – Some people define truth as what they want to believe

  1. Denis Walsh // August 9, 2022 at 1:55 PM // Reply

    What else is there to discuss, Pierre?
    Allow me to try to explain the difference between cynicism, faith, and skepticism. I will not spend any time on the cynical, as absolutely nothing will dissuade their distrust in authority.
    During Covid many people simply put their trust in authorities from the beginning, even as the track record of authorities got worse and worse, the COVID faithful stuck to the official public narrative. If they were told this is a natural occurring virus, or COVID vaccines would protect against infection or transmission, or if told early treatment was impossible with pre-existing drugs, the COVID faithful believed it. That is what is required when taking something at faith, you find your authority and you let them do the thinking for you, countervailing evidence does not dissuade the faithful.
    Many of the skeptics, scientists included, came to have less trust in and respect for the authorities making policy, as their policies and track record was remarkably consistent in the wrong direction.
    During COVID many of the people who normally would approach the world with a healthy dose of skepticism, chose the path of faith instead. It has largely been the faithful that have attacked the skeptics, the one’s who have been trying to do their own research. Coercion is anti-scientific and so is faith.
    Skepticism is the foundation of science, along with a transparent open process of data, with the ability to vet the results, without censorship or coercion.
    The COVID faithful often vilified the skeptics for not following the science, yet many highly notable scientists, virologists, and epidemiologists remain skeptics, critical of the direction chosen by authorities. The brave one’s are vetting the current data and raising credible concerns, ignoring the potential risks to their careers for not following the scientific narrative presented by authorities.
    By being a skeptic you are simply open to the possibility that a deeper dive into the science will prove that either the authority might be right and they might be wrong.
    If you have arrived at your conclusions by trusting your authority, then acknowledge the role that faith has played in your understanding of where we are and stop attacking the skeptical.

  2. You may be ‘preaching to the choir’ here, when this response might be more useful on the CFJC page … where the condemnation for your previous piece was strongest.

    It is unlikely that the nay-saying crowd there has turned on Armchair Mayor notifications.

    They are really are not interested in truth or accuracy of details, like those surrounding the Doctrine of Discovery, or capable of debating the same in a reasonable fashion … as they have in the most ‘sheep’ way possible lapped up the training of hyper partisan editorial ‘news’ outlets online and elsewhere … that this is how to debate ie; do not absorb truth … if you dont get an Adrenalin shot from the schadenfreude.

    In other words … you’re wasting your breath.

  3. Denis J Walsh // August 8, 2022 at 10:31 AM // Reply

    Hi Mel,

    Well said, as I support support free speech and the right to critical examination and the problem ias you have stated is refreshing spot on for these times. I believe we need to apply your rationale to having a critical open discussion on how Public Health officials, politicians, and mainstream media outlets have handled this pandemic. There are some very obvious similarities to how some people define truth as what they want to believe, especially regarding this pandemic we have all being experiencing fpr the past 2 1/2 years. The quote below from your wonderful article on “free speech and critical examination” is spot on and should apply to all areas of objective investigation, not used selectively.

    Denis Walsh

    “We’re all stakeholders in this, and we all have to be part of the conversation.

    When people refuse to examine facts and jump immediately to anger and condemnation in response, and when they contend that only some people are allowed into the process, it brings into question whether truth is their true goal. It feels more like an insistence that everyone else accept one version of it that’s based not on critical examination but on a position already determined.

    It’s a case of “my way or the highway.”

    The media are complicit in this as they discard the journalistic principles of objective investigation in favour of a biased narrative. The state of the media is a topic for another day but it certainly plays a role in what’s happening right now.

    Attacking someone as racist or ignorant because they ask questions or hold a different opinion than you do, or trying to cancel them, isn’t good enough.

    The only thing that gives me hope is that I know there are many people who truly do want to get to fact-based truths in order to rectify the wrongs of the past.”

    … Mel Rothenburger

    ======================================================

    • I am sure too all about a healthy debate about COVID-19 and all that jazz but, and this is the big one…if uberly-schooled scientists in inter-related disciplines (including of course health care providers) all (or most) of them called for a certain approach to the pandemic what else is there to discuss Denis?

  4. Sean McGuinness // August 7, 2022 at 10:43 PM // Reply

    I think that as white person, one has to be careful when talking about indigenous issues, especially when it relates to their history and the pain suffered. The “truth” as defined by a large part of the indigenous community is that they were lied to and exploited by the white man for 150 years.

    The Catholic Church owes apologies that are 100 years overdue. But that does not mean they are no longer relevant.

  5. Well said. And I applaud the courage to write despite the “outrage”.

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