Doug's 2022 Christmas Greeting

“What Is Truth?”

Johnny Cash wrote and recorded, “What Is Truth”. The recording, released in February of 1970, was largely considered a ‘protest song’ seeking out the truth and highlighting hypocrisies and double standards in our society of the day. The message certainly got out as the record hit the top ten music charts in Canada and the United States. Amid lessons of love and honesty younger generations felt that they were on the receiving end of mixed messages all the while they speculated a toleration and justification by society condoning war, judgement and hate, only to further exacerbate a growing generation gap. Five years prior to Cash’s record, a song penned by Hal David and Burt Bacharach hit the charts, "What the World Needs Now Is Love”. Sung by Jackie DeShannon it hit number one in Canada and the United States. The message was indeed heard, but did we listen?

Fast-forward to the millennium and we wonder how much, if any, has changed in so far as seeking truth. Enter the world of social media where we try to connect and share thoughts, ideas, our personal lives with one another. So far, a nice idea, but, it’s also where anyone can write, sing or say anything behind a shroud of pseudo names creating and spreading baseless opinions, incorrect and blatant false news, or simply showing contempt for whatever the ‘topic of the day’ may be. Walter Winchell (1897-1972) was a controversial United States journalist and broadcaster. His syndicated columns and broadcasts were filled with news and gossip. His outreach afforded massive audiences and influence in that country. You might think of him as a one-man-Facebook or Twitter platform of his time! He wrote, “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s headline” but social media’s algorithms quickly caught up and today have a way of working much faster!

So, why this lesson on truth, mixed messages and gossip mongering? Well, the Christmas and New Year season is upon us and it is or should be a time of joy and peace, love, compassion, renewed hope and yes, truth!

A little closer to home, and following my eight years on Parry Sound Town Council (now working on twelve) I would like to draw your attention to the state or fate of our municipal leaders. Within the province of Ontario this past autumn municipalities held elections for Mayor, Council and School Trustees. Did you notice the scarcity of those running in many, many municipalities? The voter had incumbents and a handful of newbies from which to decide on who to vote. I often wonder, and I have often heard comments relating to the reluctance of those considering public office that there is this expectation of backlash and dressing down when a decision is not popular, concluding the job is thankless. Albert Einstein said, “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right”. Score ‘1’ for apathy and ‘0’ for progress and change.

I believe that most municipal councillors do the best they can and they endeavour to vote in a direction that is circumspect of the best interest of the public at large. Unlike our provincial and federal counterparts, municipal councillors don’t have to deal with partisan politics and ‘towing the party line’. We try to consider all the facts, all the moving parts, reasons and logistics related. This doesn’t always ensure a popular outcome but looking at the big picture, councillors will vote with the hope and belief that they have the peoples’ best interests at heart and that each councillor’s integrity is intact.

C.S. Lewis said, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

I think what makes this job as a municipal councillor the most difficult, at least in my experience, is the backlash and rhetoric from armchair editorialists. Well meaning people see and observe and if and when become disconcerted over a matter which to them may appear mishandled, unjust, or imprudent, they question, “What doesn’t Council see? What could be more straightforward?” They conclude that Council has lost its collective mind. Worse, they appear to accept as fact and head directly to Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms with ridicule, contempt and unfounded judgement! Reading such remarks whether on Facebook or at the end of a news article, I personally suspect that often the commentator is not aware of all the facts. It’s my theory that good people just wouldn’t jump to such conclusions if only they understood the whole picture. Interestingly enough, Maya Angelou said, “There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.” Perhaps she knew a thing or two about politics!

It’s at this point I like to remind people that “There is always a good reason for something stupid!” By this I mean that under other circumstances a decision by Council may seem futile to the observer. While on the outside something ‘appears’ straightforward, a no-brainer, or irrefutable, it is prudent to keep in mind that rarely is anything simple! There are countless moving parts on any side of an argument, debate or decision. We’ve heard the analogy about seeing only the tip of the iceberg, but I have another. “People see only one side of the balance scale!” The weight pan on the other side can just as well be burdened down with arguments worthy of consideration. Concerned members of the public can educate themselves with ‘all’ the facts… ‘all the moving parts’. It’s the other side of the balance scale that presents problems, cause and effect, dilemma, impasse, deadlock and conundrum.

This is by no means to say that Council always gets it right, but please afford a sense of credit and integrity to municipal leaders for their decisions based on their experience and knowledge. Most deserve it. “Something doesn’t look right, so it must be wrong, evil, preferential, secretive, disingenuous?” Arm yourself with all the facts and details and then seek out a peaceful dialogue, whether you agree or disagree.

In a world in which we hope and pray for peace and compassion, let’s begin at home by practicing understanding, empathy and kindness. Let loose those grudges that consume and weigh an individual down.

On behalf of my wife Josey, we wish you a very Happy New Year throughout 2023. May you enjoy health, prosperity, peace and truth!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year in 2023!
Doug & Josey McCann!