Increasingly we live in a world -- alas -- of deliberate misrepresentation and mischaracterization. Or you could call them lies.
Thank God for mainstream, fair-minded journalists like myself, who care for little but truth, justice, and setting the record straight. In that spirit, I offer up the following falsehoods, believed to be true by many of the bewildered among us, along with corrections.
* A group of radical Muslims is planning to build a mosque at ground zero in New York as a taunt to survivors of those who died there.
That might be true, if it were a just a mosque and if it were at ground zero.
The project in question is a high-rise community center that, while it will house a room for Muslim prayer, will also have meeting rooms, a gym and a swimming pool. What it is, basically, is a building.
Nor is it "at" ground zero. The site is two blocks away and around a corner. When protestors gather at ground zero to wave signs and shout, they are out of sight of the proposed "mosque."
As far as the affront to survivors, I would think visitors to the 9/11 memorial will find enough to give them pain without worrying about a building two blocks away.
Neither is the group planning the community center "radical" in any accepted sense of the word. The chief imam involved in the project is celebrated and reviled throughout the Muslim world as a moderate and a man of peace.
* President Obama is a Muslim.
No he's not.
* President Obama is planning a stealth tax hike to fund his socialistic, budget-busting schemes.
Not really. What he is planning is to sit in the back of the canoe and let his hand trail in the water while the sun sets on the Bush tax cuts of a decade earlier.
In doing so he is merely affirming the wisdom of Bush and his advisers who decreed that their tax cuts would expire after 10 years. (They did this because it was obvious that if the cuts lasted any longer, they would sink the federal budget under a weight of debt too horrible to contemplate.)
As a sop to the hard-pressed middle class, still laboring to recover from Bush's Great Recession, Obama has agreed to renew their tax cuts, which didn't amount to a lot anyway. The people who make $250,000 a year or more, however, will return to the happy days of Ronald Reagan, when income taxes were higher.
* Mr. Obama is not a native-born American.
Yes he is.
* The Left Wing has a stranglehold on the government and it is the mission of the conservative majority to "take our country back" and rescue future generations from Socialist Hell.
No, no, and no. Strictly speaking, there is no Left Wing in this country, certainly not a Left like they have in Europe, where they're still fighting the class struggle. The class struggle here is over. The rich guys won.
Actually, there is not even that much of a Right Wing (although you'd never know it from the commotion they raise).
The great majority of Americans belong to the Party of Indifference. People here don't really care much about politics.
You see it in our voter turnout, which is abysmally low, and in the lack of participation in local affairs. Reality television is so much more entertaining.
What we have in place of ideology is single-issue politics.
Abortion, gay marriage, merit pay for teachers, stem cell research, free trade, illegal immigration, guns -- everybody's got a favorite issue, at least one, and that's what drives people to the polls (when it does).
Concepts like "civic virtue" and "the greater good of society" are on life support. In many instances they are viewed as communist buzzwords. One is reminded of the words of Yeats:
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
There. I hope that clears up any confusion you might have.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. www.otherwords.org