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Facts versus Truth

I just read a screenplay as part of the upcoming Intersections Play Reading Series (more on this to come). The film is called “Nines” and is set in a futuristic world where societal functionality seems ideal until people start to question it. A line in the script inspired me to write this blog. A student, in the midst of a heated classroom debate with another student, yells at her, “You don’t know the facts…,” to which she replies, “Facts don’t always mean truth.” It took me a few minutes to continue reading as I wondered, “What does this even mean?”

I thought of the debates I’ve witnessed in my life where someone would use that same line from their arsenal of verbal weaponry – “You don’t know the facts.” I’m sure I’ve used that line myself to make a point. After all, it is important to identify facts when seeking to fully understand an issue or resolve a matter.  As defined, a fact is “A thing that is indisputably the case.”

Then there’s “truth,” defined as “that which is in accordance with fact or reality.” So I guess Truth is like the soulmate of Fact. Truth is also very important to identify when seeking to fully understand an issue or resolve a conflict.  Similarly to how I believe people have more than one soulmate in the universe, Facts can have many Truths linked to them.

For example:
The Yankees did not make the playoffs this year – that’s a fact — and because they came up short in the playoff chase this year, they will not win the World Series. That’s a sad fact, but the truth is that many Yankee fans — myself included — are proud of this team for the effort that they put in this season. That’s gotta count for something.

Another, more emotionally charged, example:
It’s a fact that illegal weapons were taken off the streets of NYC as a result of “Stop and Frisk” before it was found to be unconstitutional. I won’t say a lot of weapons were recovered, or even a justifiable amount, as that becomes a matter of relativity and opinion. But yes, weapons and other illegal contraband were confiscated.  

It’s also a fact that racial minorities were stopped and frisked at a much higher rate than white people under this policy (leading to its “unconstitutional” ruling).  Some would argue the proportional imbalance was justified, and while I strongly disagree, that’s once again opinion territory. But a truth that comes with these facts is that Stop and Frisk, which took some weapons off the streets, was also invasive, abusive, and unjust to many innocent people. The policy strained community-police relations, thereby creating an inability for police and marginalized communities to cooperate.

Truth and fact are often used interchangeably, but sometimes one term is a better fit. In my two examples, the truths impact people’s lives. They are in accordance with the facts… the realities… and I think that’s what the character in Nines is getting at. We must make an effort in the real world to acknowledge the importance of truth, as it is just as important, dare I say even more important, than the facts.