A friend of mine during medical school (I went to UCLA) had a car with the license plate "Love"(it was an old VW Bug from the sixties). I asked him about the license once and he said it was the thing in life he valued most. He then asked me what value of mine I would put on a license plate if I had the chance. This got me thinking, and I finally came up with two words that felt most important to me. They were "Truth" and "Justice" --and I couldn't decide between them. So, let me talk about Truth for a moment (I'm sure I'll talk about Justice eventually!).
What is Truth? Well, the origin of the word comes from ancient British, and it means "fidelity". A common definition is "to be in accordance with facts" or "the body of real things, events, and facts". Let's start with those definitions.
Truth is closely aligned with reality and facts. Wishful thinking, fantasy, and delusion are not Truth. None of these things are real, nor do they exist in the real world (reality). Frequently they exist in the world of the mind, but that world may or may not be consistent with reality. In simple words, Truth exists in a world that is independent of the way I might think. How I might think about this or that may be consistent with the truth in the real world, but that is not a guarantee that what I think (or feel) is automatically true. Now, why am I making such a big deal of this? I see many patients who have certain beliefs about the world that they automatically accept as true and they refuse to alter their belief, even when faced with overwhelming evidence (facts) to the contrary.
How does one then, identify the Truth, since what we may believe (or want to believe) is not relevant? This would seem easy in theory, but is often difficult in practice. Let's move from the clinical to the practical. John Kerry's military record has suddenly come into question. Over 200 of his former military comrades now are saying that John Kerry is lying about his service record and are calling into question everything from the way he received his medals; to his statements about being in Cambodia on Christmas in 1968 (see links , here, here, here for some of the discussion about this; or look on Google to find the over 3,000 pieces on the web). Now, the people who support Kerry want to believe that what the Swift Boat Vets are saying is not true; and the people who support Bush want to believe just the opposite. What either want to believe is irrevelant. The question is what are the facts--because these allegations must have a factual basis, otherwise they are meaningless. Can the facts of the charges be checked? Yes. Here is what needs to be known:
On the question "Has John Kerry lied about his experiences in Vietnam?"- 1) what has John Kerry said about those experience over the years? 2) Has what he has said been consistent, or has his story changed in important details?
On the question "What are the facts of John Kerry's service as alleged by the Swift Boat Veterans?" - 1) What do the Navy medical records say about his wounds that led to the Purple Hearts? 2) What do Navy records say about where he was at Christmas, 1968 (regardless of what Kerry might say)? What about the reports of Kerry's superiors (not necessarily just the positive ones).
Now, if you had access to all this information, you could make a reasonable decision about Truth. Certainly, the open record of Kerry's words over the year is quite damning, since his story has changed (depending on the audience) and he was still changing it as recently as during his senate years (see some of the links above, or do your own search). This is evidence supporting the allegation that Kerry is a liar. But it is not conclusive evidence until the Navy medical records and the general records are released by the Kerry Campaign and they are found to support the Swift Boat Vets allegations.
Kerry has the opportunity to COMPLETELY REFUTE what his fellow vets are saying by releasing the records of his military service and the associated medical records. This is a matter of FACT, not OPINION.
What Kerry has chosen to do instead of releasing this information is to use what is called an ad hominem defense. This defense is one that attacks the credibility of the source of the allegations. It does not address the factual content of those allegations, which might be true, no matter what the character of the accusors (not to mention that over 200 vets have signed the allegations. Again, the number of vets is not relevant to the truth, but it would be a vast waste of effort to try to discredit every single one of these people, when all you have to do is to release the records to prove you have the truth on your side).
At this point in time, multiple Truths can be gleaned:
1. John Kerry has changed his story about being in Cambodia and this information comes from his own comments on the record. John Kerry might be guilty of lying about it (at worse) or he simply could have exaggerated his story to make his points over the years. If the latter case, he needs to publicly state this and let the voters decide if this is lying.
2. The Swift Boat Veterans allegations about the above and other aspects of Kerry's military history in Vietnam can only be discredited by the facts in the Navy record of John Kerry.
3. John Kerry has chosen to attack the people making the allegations, rather than refuting the allegations, suggesting that the record might not be able to support his position on what is true. If it could support his position, then why are these records not being released?
Now, some of you might say that I am dedicated to finding out the Truth when it comes to Kerry, but not when it comes to Bush.
Frankly, I could care less about the Vietnam conflict. I was tired of it in 1975. It is , after all, 35 years in the past. It is Kerry who has made a big deal about his Vietnam service; it is Kerry who has accused Bush of being AWOL and Kerry's campaign manager who has said "Bush is a deserter." Bush has multiple times come before the American public and admitted that he was quite a fuck-up before he married Laura and found God. He also admitted to having an alcohol problem. Bush has been as forthcoming as it is possible to be about his own character and motives. Kerry, on the other hand, consistently presents himself as a war hero, and he makes you aware of it so frequently, one begins to wonder if he's trying to convince himself. I want to know the Truth about Bush's military service and I want to know the Truth about Kerry's military service. The media were relentless about pursuing Bush's records. They found nothing to suggest he did anything wrong or against military regulations during his service in the ANG. He was never AWOL, and he most certainly was never a deserter. Will the media be as persistent about Kerry's military record? Bush has never claimed to be a war hero from the Vietnam war. Kerry has--over and over again; and it has become the centerpiece of his ability to fight the war on terror. Bush's leadership since 9/11 is his evidence to fight that war.
So, getting back to Truth. It is possible that I am bias (Ha! It is extremely difficult, isn't it to keep one's personal feelings out of it? You have to be conscious all the time of those feelings, especially when you are examining the facts!). Why don't you go check out the facts and see what's what. But don't resort to wishful thinking, fantasy, or delusion or excuses. And don't use ad hominem attacks. Forget who you want to vote for and just evaluate the facts.
The Truth is more important than anything else.