By now, truth is hard to find. It’s elusive and hidden in a world of attractive falsehoods. One must go looking for it with unselfish intent, otherwise they will be wowed by sirens singing irresistible tales. The search is difficult because nothing of value is found easily. Like prospectors of old seeking gold, we must cast aside our present sense of security to stake claim on a better future. Despite our best efforts to predict what is to come, the future is full of unknowns that produce both anxiety and optimism. It’s much easier to comfort ourselves in a false ideal of the past. A world simply shaped by our imagination, one that lasts forever in our mind.

Before any search-and-rescue mission is undertaken, there is a loss reported. Someone has to recognize the missing and someone has to care enough about the missing to go looking. Do we recognize that truth is missing, and do we care enough to go looking?

The truth I speak of seeking is not confirmation of what we want to believe. It is driven by the desire to understand what we see while being aware of the many falsehoods waiting to affirm whatever we may conveniently want to think. We must cautiously confirm what is true using reasoning, no matter where it takes us, while never abandoning reality. Many of us live in a sanitized world removed from the harsher elements of reality, but the denial of truth does not render it extinct.

From its inception, the United States has skirted around truth. The words of the founding documents spoke of truth but failed to implement it. The reality of slavery forced the founders to abandon truth, and it’s been missing ever since. Everyone in this country shares this reality. We may want to detach ourselves from it, but inevitably, reality comes storming back. All attempts to pretend we can navigate around it end in conflict. There is no putting it behind us without facing the truth. Part of facing the truth is recognizing how distorted our perception has become in our attempt to ignore the truth. We look at what’s happening and say, ‘This can’t be us!”

The truth is: This is us! We are all part of a country that staked its future on slavery at the cost of truth. It’s made many attempts to renegotiate that decision, but it has never reconciled.

An examination of why the founders chose to abandon truth will inevitably lead to selfishness. Slavery provided them benefits that they were unwilling to sacrifice. It appears they may have grappled with the cost of that decision, but they left it to future generations to reckon. They were not ready to give up their comfortable lifestyles. This reasoning has been passed down to the present. A horrific war was fought to maintain the status quo. Science was coerced in an attempt to justify white supremacy. Laws were written and enforced to subjugate a whole group of people for the benefit of another, all while denying the suffering of the oppressed. But that suffering didn’t go away, nor did the attempt to ignore. The impetus to ignore is still driven by selfishness and greed.

Every time we hear the call of truth, we pretend it is the first time it’s cried out, but that is far from reality. It has been screaming for justice far longer than any of us can remember. Many live cocooned in their own comfortable world, denying their contribution to injustice. Only when we all understand our role can we move forward in the search for truth.

Why search for truth?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated something he and his compatriots were not willing to accept. Although it was called a self-evident truth, they themselves did not believe all men were created equal. That fundamental truth was lost from the very inception of this country. Even a casual look at the past will reveal the carnage this omission has created. Today we are still trying to fix that broken assertion.

The concept Jefferson so eloquently wrote of was much harder to implement. That all men or people are created equal, seems to be self-evident, but the truth is for the entire history of this country, all people have never been treated equally. This is the shameful truth we have to come to terms with before we can ever hope for a better future. The history of bias treatment has left an indelible imprint on us all. Most of the time we don’t even realize how much we’re affected. It’s much easier to point a finger at the other and question, “How can they be like that?”

Reconciliation is not particularly in vogue, but what are the alternatives?

Alienation and estrangement have not led to favorable outcomes. Reconciliation is not appeasement. It centers around truth, self-evident truth. Truth that has been denied far too long. Denial has led to extreme inequities that have to be reckoned. As a nation, we have never addressed the inequity that exists because of this entrenched denial. We now need a reconciliation the likes of which this nation has never witnessed.


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Philip Cobbs was born and raised in Albemarle County, and his family lineage extends back at least four generations in the county. A graduate of Piedmont Virginia Community College, he is a craftsman, author, educator, businessman and farmer.