It is unavoidable in the United States today to not see the severe divide growing between and among our people. With change always comes friction but the challenge today is that the ability to determine what is real, what is ground truth, and who is trustworthy is nearly impossible to determine. The rapidity of information sharing now possible through social media has overloaded not only data systems but also our minds.
And yet, how different is today from history? Sadly, there is little difference in the activities being undertaken and the goals that people hold; however there is an exponentially higher rate of spread of information and disinformation that categorically changes and elevates its impact. One the biggest findings of my tour was that people are hungry for information and by and large, Americans want to know the truth. The challenge every citizen faces is trying to figure out where truth lies and who to trust.
And yet, I’d challenge the question and rebut with the notion that while we are all searching for as much accurate information as we can gather, the reality is that the information we seek is not publicly available – whether for security reasons or by design. National security demands that information be withheld from the public. There is no surprise in that notion – surely, no coach would show the opposing football team their plays before the game began. Similarly, our military and security sector agencies must keep the majority of information, goals, and innovations close hold. But it is the other, the lack of information or release of misinformation by design that has contributed to the dividing beliefs of our country.
I had no trouble, ever, throughout my travels explaining to citizens that the real truth lies in a space to which few, if any, have full access. We are all holding, at best, five pieces of a five-thousand piece puzzle and then trying to draw conclusions and make decisions based on this limited intel. And the truth is, we can’t – at least not with any trust in accuracy.
And yet, what choice do we have? It is important to acknowledge that each of us is forced to make the best decisions we can with the limited information we can access because the one thing we can control is our respect for our fellow citizens who are trying to make sense of the same messy and absent information we are. Our differences, therefore, our born out of the different pieces we hold, which provide us access to different parts of the larger picture. Our differences are not true differences but rather perspectives that have led us to defend, as different realities, separate sections of the real picture. And if we, the people, can see that, acknowledge that, we can share our pieces and gain knowledge.