Subberwal: An open letter to those in power — tell us the truth
June 30, 2016
To Whom it May Concern,
I hope you're well, and I hope I'm not distracting you from your important tasks of balancing budgets and not starting wars. I have a problem I'd like to call to your attention.
As I am writing this, Britain is just five days past its startling decision to leave the European Union.
The people of Britain have the right to decide whether they remain a part of the European Union, and there are arguments for and against exiting the bloc of states. The nation would save money in the immediate future if it were to leave the EU, but perhaps EU membership would have been financially worth the upfront costs. The UK would no longer have the right to unrestricted trade on the continent, but it would have the freedom to form independent trade partnerships. The list goes on.
These are all valid claims, and ones that deserved to be talked over and argued about in dingy pubs across Britain until the wee hours. However, these were not the arguments that were widely discussed in the debate over Brexit. Instead, British voters considered the future of their nation surrounded by an atmosphere of falsehood. UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage's stated that the UK was spending over £350 million per week to remain in the EU, a figure that was plastered across a bright red bus and driven across Britain and which was completely invented.
I am alarmed by this recent propensity of politicians to feed their electorate blatantly false information. Manipulation, scheming, and mischaracterization have a long and venerated history in politics. But to unabashedly fabricate facts and numbers and present them to voters as the hard data that they should use to make their choice? This is something different, something that is becoming more prevalent across borders and something that is deeply unsettling.
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You are a representative of the people, and it is the electorate, not the policies, to which you owe your allegiance. You must present your policies to the voters and allow them to choose whatever they feel is right; your job is to protect their interests even at the cost of your policies, not to protect your policies even at the cost of the truth.
To present us with false information is not only wrong, it is insulting. Even young children have their doubts when they are presented with a suspicious story. How can Santa get all the way around the world in one night? Wouldn't all those presents be too heavy for his sleigh? Surely adult voters can be relied upon to be at least this discerning. I am 18 years old, with a public high school diploma, a couple of summer jobs and a year of college under my belt, and I still know when I'm being pandered to.
I'm not claiming that there are not real issues to be discussed in our rapidly changing world. Immigrants and refugees do represent an increasing financial burden; for the first time in decades the rich are in fact getting richer while the poor are getting poorer; Islamist extremism poses a very real threat to the Western way of life, and growing divisions between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and right and left make constructive discourse about these issues increasingly difficult.
However, the only thing that can combat this hate and resentment is truth. Nearly every position can be supported by a valid argument, but those arguments cannot be made effectively or taken seriously when they are built on a foundation of shifting sand, lies that take shape depending on how the political wind is blowing.
How much money will the British economy lose as a result of leaving the European Union? How much would it cost to build a wall along the Mexican border, and can it be done? How high is our unemployment rate? These are questions with real, concrete, quantitative answers, and they have all been answered not only wrongly, but deliberately misleadingly, by your colleagues in politics.
I implore you not to give in to the pressures of polls, election and re-election, and your loyalty to your policies and to think about the people whom you represent. The lies, deception and mud-slinging that have filled national and international politics in the past year have led some to call our current situation a "post-truth era." I urge you to fight against this ominous declaration. The voting population is, for the most part, informed, interested, and able to think critically. Feeding us false and manipulative information is the same as making our decisions for us.
If your policies and propositions are strong enough, they will stand on their own, without being buttressed by falsehoods. If you give us the facts, we might just agree with you.
Kaeli Subberwal graduated from Summit High School in 2015 and just finished her first year at the University of Chicago. She is a summer intern at the Summit Daily.
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