A new year of Truth in 2018

PHOTO: Jeremy Brooks, Flickr CC

A new year. A new truth.

Every year I share the list of top words from the Global Language Monitor of Austin, Texas. This firm tracks worldwide use of the English language on the internet, looking for trends, useful cultural insight and changes in the language itself.

Though I found this organization in the flood of “top words” lists while writing a column years ago, I’ve continued to follow them as they provide more analytical year-round updates. Back in April 2017, the firm reported “Truth” as the top word. As the list was updated last month, “Truth” again retains its spot atop the list.

Why “Truth?” Well, quite simply, “truth” is what people are searching for, and it’s hard to find. That’s why “Narrative” and “Post-Truth” also land on the list. We live in a world where words shape a reality different from observable fact. That’s not just a political assertion, but rather one related to the way we consume vast amounts of information designed to move our attitudes, behaviors, votes, and especially our money. The confusion of finding truth in a post-truth world defines the struggles we each face. It certainly defines mine.

In this new world, President Donald Trump becomes not the cause of these woes, but the symptom. He’s an enigma. Trump doesn’t behave like a normal human in any aspect of his life. He awakens each day to a conflict measured in news cycles and hits, never fully grounded in reality. He lies. Constantly. Not always about big stuff. Sometimes for no particular reason. He was elected for emotional reasons, to confront a national emotional problem. And those who would argue “truth” in his wake have struggled to land any blows. (Though a hostile Congress after the next election could cause him more serious trouble).

But Trump is not the “top name” on the Global Language Monitor list this year. After winning that title in 2015 and 2016 he falls to #2 behind Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping. As the United States descends into a strobe light rave of social media division and opioids, Jinping consolidates power in the most populous country on Earth. He and China are not some distant phenomenon. Jinping was educated in Iowa. He knows America well. He’s deftly handled issues like our local trade war over steel; staving off serious tariffs by reducing production of steel and raising prices. He’s won over his people with a national program rooting out local corruption. It’s probably him that keeps a North Korean missile from hitting Los Angeles, not Trump. Why? Because we’re his best customers.

And though China remains a repressive regime by American standards, its people prove resilient and far more nuanced than most Americans realize. Great changes will happen in China, arguably for the better. Will changes in America be in the right direction, or the wrong? Within 15 years China will be on the moon. Will we answer? Will we even try? Hard to say, when most of our national energy will be spent telling people how to feel about this changing reality. And, of course, what to buy. Trump will be gone by then, but some new blithering figurehead might simply replace him.

Unless we wise up. Unless we accept truth and work together — not in agreement, for solutions may carry liberal or conservative labels, but in shared purpose. We still could.

One good way to start is to treat each other better. GLM’s top phrase was “The Weinstein Effect,” paired with “#metoo.” Women began recognizing common experiences and fighting back against sexual harassment and discrimination. This forced many people into uncomfortable discussions. Politicians and leaders, including some here in Minnesota, lost their jobs. Politically, people of left or right persuasion have had to reckon with the past, present and future. For the right: the Clarance Thomas hearings of the early 1990s, Trump’s own comments, and policies that do not allow women with families equal footing in the workplace. For the left, the legacy of Bill Clinton and the fact that he probably should have resigned, not for breaking the law or conspiracy theories, but for breaking trust and treating women with disrespect. Some of these matters need not be relitigated. We simply must do better from now on. Each of us.

All of this lets me transition to the podcast “Dig Deep,” produced by Heidi Holtan at Northern Community Radio and featuring my conservative friend Chuck Marohn and my liberal self. Our latest series of episodes looked at themes from the past year, but in what I would a substantial way. In the first episode we talked about “Fake News.” In the second, we talked about the illusion of a strong economy that divides the reality of working people from that of wealthy elites. In the third, Heidi leads a discussion about the #metoo movement. Each conversation averages about 20 minutes and I think these are among our best episodes yet. We did a podcast only “bonus episode” looking at 2018 predictions as well.

Happy New Year! Not all my 2018 posts will be political, but there’s also no escaping the politics of these times.


Comments

  1. And a Happy, blessed New Year to you Aaron! Good article.

    However you missed a great opportunity to couple “the truth” with the decades old tradition of Rangers using unique word association nicknames. You could have made mention of the impact Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, Wacky Frederica Wilson, Al Frankenstien, Crazy Bernie, Cryin’ Chuck, Low I.Q. Mika or Psycho Joe had on 2017.

    Trump was acting as normal as any human, especially any Ranger, when truthfully labeling these folks.

  2. Ranger, Trump is about as far from normal as it gets and most parents would ground their children for acting and talking like Trump. I think most people are smart enough to see this and are very alarmed about what Trump and his mob of incompetent, corrupt, self-serving, scamming dunces are doing to this country and the futures of our children and grandchildren. You, otoh, remind me of Hiroo Onoda, who spent 29 years in the jungles of the Philippines until 1974 refusing to believe the official messages that WWII was over. It was fake news!

    Trump knows easy marks when he sees them. After the tax entitlements bill to the super wealthy passed, Trump told his wealthy members at Mara Lago, “You all just got a lot richer.” Republicans suddenly had no worries about a $1.5 trillion deficit increase because even before the bill passed, the GOP and Trump were talking about Medicare and SS “entitlement” reform to pay for the deficit. Yes, we average Americans will be getting cuts to SS and Medicare to pay for Trump and the richie rich big tax breaks. But you probably think this is fake news too, Trump would never con you.

    • Trump winning 78 of 87 Minnesota counties makes him as normal as can be. (Not to mention he won 85% of counties nationwide). Nope kissa, it’s us Rangers, and the 612ers, who are the weird ones…those odd balls on the extreme end of the bell curve.

  3. I have no idea what point you are trying to make and neither do you.

    • A “konfused kissa” – sad..

      • Norshorguy says:

        Ranger, I have to say you have always impressed me with your plentiful lack of wit.

        • You’re quite astute norshorguy. At their peril, some have mistaken General Mattis as being witty, when he’s simply, seriously stating the facts. I rarely ever use wit as well..

          • Norshorguy says:

            Well, I was hoping for a battle of wits but it is indeed clear that you have come unarmed. General Mattis? Mr. Ranger, I do not know Jim Mattis. I have never worked with Jim Mattis. But, Mr. Ranger, I know that you are no Jim Mattis. Indeed, you do rarely use wit. You usually fail in the attempt.

  4. Sigh…ok norshorguy. We all have shortcomings, one of yours being lack of discernment – sad. From now on I’ll help you out by giving you a heads-up when I’m being witty.

    • Norshorguy says:

      Sighs and shortcomings and discernment, oh my!. You are also showing your imperviousness to irony as well. Re-reading prove helpful to you, or maybe not. Thanks for the chuckle!

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