Fishbein: Reclaiming “Alternative Facts”
To maintain hope, the American left must take up the mantle of unreality.
It is easy to think about the world today and be depressed. The sun rarely shines in the winters and every day you get a bit further behind in class. People continue to pour kilotons of carbon into the atmosphere and continue to ignore the millions of refugees displaced, in part, by our own actions. On Jan. 20, as the Hanover sky assumed its dull grey shade, President Donald Trump’s inauguration hung its own cloud over the future of our country.
I need to find a way to see something brighter coming. I need a positive to cling to as I go through life, faced with daunting piles of books, rainy weather and Trump. To do this, I can use a Trumpism: “alternative facts.” To paraphrase Trump’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, they’re the tool Trump used to gain power. Trump used these alternative facts to portray a darker reality, coaxing voters to buy into the idea of a future “great” America. In this vision, Trump alone can get the country on track.
I aim to reclaim alternative facts from Trump. In fact, we — the American left — can use alternative facts to resist Trump. To us, they can serve as the vestige of hope necessary to forge a brighter America.
Trump has used alternative facts for nefarious purposes: to make the world weak and cast himself as its savior. We must utilize alternative facts ourselves and focus on the small positives in a world of negatives. Alternative facts are a necessary tool we can use to say something different. Trump spun his voters a tale of darkness and despair, but now we must answer those who oppose him with light. Alternative facts will enable us to find this light.
Trump has made greedy use of the power of unreality, altering the truth in an effort to sell himself and lull us all with the art of a deal too good to pass up — and too good to be true. He told himself that his hands are not small, he built his colossal ego, he engaged in fraud and tax evasion, he built his personal fortune. He told America he was the only man for the job — and so we now call him president.
Trump has used alternative facts to help himself; we, on the other hand, will use them to help the community. While we maintain our vigilance to check Trump as he spreads his alternative facts, we will spread our own. While Trump sits in the Oval Office, we will reassure each other, even though it might not be. We will stand up for all Americans, even though we might not be able to stop them from getting hurt. We will cling to rays of hope that pierce through the Trump rain cloud. We will prevail over Trump using the same means by which he prevailed over us. Trump has shown that alternative facts will persuade desperate people, that they will vote for him if he offers something different than their reality. But while Trump offers a hateful slew of alternative facts, we will offer alternative facts that spread love.
This love — alternative in its presentation of a reality in opposition to that of the Trump administration — will fuel us in our efforts to build a better tomorrow. Trump has shown America that what we think we know about our world can be bent. We can bend it back. But we can bend it to tell ourselves that another, better world still lies within reach.
To see this alternative, though, we must embrace alternative facts. We must find the good that lies below the soil, that has been tread upon and lied to and beaten down to the point where we can hardly see it. We will find it, though. We will cling to it and tell ourselves that despite the realities of the wallets of the oil companies or the biases within our legal system or the immobility of our social structure or the exclusion of half our population, we will find a way to climate, racial, economic and gender justice.