The truth is out there, but not as a meme

BRATTLEBORO-The middle and high school students of Saint Michael School recently reenacted Raphael's painting The School of Athens as part of the school's Ancient Greece Night. Each student role-played a different philosopher, so there was a lively discussion about the value and pursuit of truth and the role of argument in creating a good citizenry.

While Socrates didn't mention using social media to sharpen the mind, a Skeptic did say something applicable to the local conversation about the war in Gaza. To paraphrase: Truth can't be found through argument because both sides can make equally valid and weighty claims.

If this statement is true, are we, the citizens of modern southern Vermont, having fruitful arguments about the war by using Letters to the Editor, protests, town Facebook pages, and yard signs?

Conversations with certain attributes - participants who desire to seek truth and are willing to quell the urge to be right - are indeed transformative. A good talk deepens understanding and reveals flaws in one's thinking, but it must be grounded in facts to achieve these results.

Given my personal history, I was reflexively on the side of Israel after the events of Oct. 7, 2023. My friends broadly agree with me, and my husband and I are 100% on the same page.

I decided to remove myself from my echo chamber by reading the posts on our local Facebook pages. That, however, only brought out my worst character traits, hardened my views, and increased my hostility.

Yet, without social media, I would have never read Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib - a Gazan-born American who is pro-Palestine and anti-Hamas. I do not entirely agree with him, but his intelligence, knowledge, and sensitivity have affected my understanding of the war.

My preferred sources of information are the journalist Summer Said of The Wall Street Journal and the historian Benny Morris. I also appreciate the commentary by Michael Moynihan, Douglas Murray, and Sam Harris, and the writings in The Tablet.

The ferocious arguing using slogans and short, provocative statements on our community's Facebook pages obscures so much common ground. One might not realize that the "ceasefire now" crowd includes people who want the state of Israel dismantled and those who want a "two-state solution."

Those of us frustrated with that slogan wonder if a ceasefire that doesn't meet certain conditions would create more deaths in the long term and leave Israel vulnerable to annihilation.

Moreover, where is the line between Hamas and Gazans? Is Hamas simply a terrorist organization, is it the duly elected governing body of Gaza, or is it some hybrid? Despite the slogans, the conflict is complicated.

It is hard enough for these questions to surface in conversation, and they are impossible to answer with memes. Yet our moral obligations mean we must learn how to discuss these matters productively.

The Brattleboro Facebook pages are an integral aspect of the public square, so let's use them to grow in wisdom and not resentment.

Desiree DeLuca-Johnson


This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.

This piece, published in print in the Voices section or as a column in the news sections, represents the opinion of the writer. In the newspaper and on this website, we strive to ensure that opinions are based on fair expression of established fact. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, The Commons is reviewing and developing more precise policies about editing of opinions and our role and our responsibility and standards in fact-checking our own work and the contributions to the newspaper. In the meantime, we heartily encourage civil and productive responses at [email protected].

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