“And what is ‘truth’? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?”

These lyrics, which come from the amazing musical,  “Jesus Christ Superstar”, made a huge impression on me when I first heard them. I remind myself of them whenever I have been confronted with words that I feel are untrue. With the term “fake news” joining our vernacular, and the tension of raging, different opinions, those lyrics have never seemed more powerful

First, we need to appreciate that there is a difference between an opinion and a fact, or a truth.

In journalism, I learned the difference can be defined by something as simple as the page an article is printed on, and the front page had better be the truth.

The Opinion page, like the one this is printed on, is for my opinion. I can have the opinion that two and two makes six, but that does not mean it is the truth. I might believe there is life on Jupiter, and there may or may not be life, but as of now, it is not a statement of truth.

An opinion does not necessarily need to be proven true.

Another great example is a coin. We can all agree that a quarter is a coin, but depending on which side of the coin you are looking at you can say what is on it, and both be right.

Truth can at times be confusing, like the lyrics of Joan Collins’ song: “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.” You can do as the song says, but we agree that a cloud is a cloud. It is being willing to come to a basic form of reasonable agreement that we can begin to understand how another person sees things as their truth.

Truth used to be a lot easier to agree upon back when we were not being offered endless definitions of what truth is. I remember when the news was on for 30 minutes and shared the same voice. That was a long time ago before news became a 24-hour-event, and needed to be profitable with endless “breaking news” keeping us tuned in.

If we hear very different things stated as truths, depending on the channel you’ve switched on, no wonder people are knocking heads. How do you decide whose truth is true?

Perhaps one way to help us process our “truth meter” is to begin to listen to each other instead of yelling at each other.

How can we begin to say the other person is wrong if we don’t even know what they are saying, or aren’t willing to try to see the other side. We do not have to agree, but at least consider that they truly believe what they are saying. Again, we hit that roadblock between truth and opinion.

They do not have to be the same thing. Opinion comes from our mind with all its past opinions and perspectives. Truth can be hard to get to, but we can still agree that the sun is the sun and not a buffalo. We have to agree on some things or it becomes a futile war of wills and not a seeking of what is real and true.

If ever there was a family filled with an array of different opinions it is mine. Yet, we have learned to agree on some principles and that is a start.

An example is the heated subject of gun control. Oh no, I said that. Guns do kill people, and people do fire guns. Can that be accepted as true? Not asking do you have the right to own a gun? Or stating that it takes a bad person to fire a gun.  Take all that opinion and set it aside. If we can agree on my first statement then we can begin to at least understand why the person feels that way, without agreeing with them. At least we will have a common ground from which to work.

I listen to political ads on television. My head spins. You can see back to back ads on the same issue that state completely different things. Which one is telling the truth? Measures 27 and 30 come to mind. Now someone, at best, is stretching the facts. Which one?  Or both? How would you know? There is no standard of truth required for these ads. The stations just want to be paid. I guess we’ll just have to study and research so we can form our own opinions.

The truth can be proven in a court of law in our country, and we are grateful for it.

Let’s say you are in a courtroom, and you are being falsely accused of something. Let’s say there is someone who could clear you of this crime because they were with you at that time. All they have to do is tell the truth, and you are free. But let’s say this person is mad at you and decides to say: “No, I was out of town. No way I was with her.” Now you know personally that this is a lie. It’s not the truth.

Here we demand the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

Diana J. Ingram

Diana Ingram has been a columnist for Los Banos newspapers for four decades.