I was recently involved in a conversation that involved alternative facts.
While “alternative facts” has become a buzzword for “lies,” thanks to Kellyanne Conway, my conversation was, perhaps, a more pure example of fuzzy reporting. The facts in question were not rooted in deception, or provable falsehoods, but were differences in recollection, which is, indeed, a soft science.
It was a conversation that boiled down to “You said,” “I said.” It did not represent two people telling utter, egregious lies. Quite the contrary, we each had our own recollection of conversations that had taken place, which we believed to be true. The problem was, our memories didn’t quite match up.
The debate centered around one thing: Had we, or had we not, agreed upon a particular course of action.
The details almost matched. Same date, place, and time. But certain key facts — the ones that push my buttons, and apparently do the same of my co-conversationalist — stood in stark contrast to each other.
Oh, to have had a myriad of fact checkers on watch, who would joyously rewind the videos and pull data to set the facts straight, then publish those checks all over the internet. I would have welcomed some proof one way or the other. But the only video that existed was in my mind. My often imperfect mind.
I clung to my truth. Partly, I suppose I should admit, because I like to be right.
It will harm my case here to admit this, but not so long ago, I said to my husband, “Would you please just let me be wrong and act like I’m right?”
Yet, I reserve such moments for my husband, and sometimes my kids. Maybe a close friend who knows what I’m up to. And only if it doesn’t matter. Matters of trivia, entertainment, expediency.
But for the most part, when professionalism is at play, I only assert myself if I believe I have my facts straight, and if it matters. I’ll sometimes shrug off someone’s blatant lie if I know they’re trying to save face.
The topic at hand just happened to be on a somewhat professional level, and it also stomped on my hot button. My area of expertise. A topic that would have raised a red flag. A flaming, furiously waving red flag, one that would have made me flip out momentarily. I would have thought, “Oh, holy cow,” then been grateful that the truth had surfaced before it became a problem.
Yet, somehow, that truth never surfaced, and instead, I found myself in a back-and-forth conversation in which two of us did not, could not, see eye-to-eye.
In such a situation, it seems, there is no easy answer. I could not play back the video in my mind.
We’ve entered an age of alternative reporting — where contradictory facts are presented as truths, and those dedicated to truth are being deemed liars. It’s a frightening thing to realize that cold, hard, scientific data is at risk of being re-catalogued to the fairy tale shelf.
It served as a reminder that only by trying to see things from another perspective, only by giving grace, keeping an open mind, and simply agreeing to move on toward a common goal, could we overcome an impasse. But such practice is only prudent when no documentation exists.
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@emilyJparnell.