Friday, October 5, 2012

Pod Club: Truth Vs. Fact

"Getting a firm hold on the truth is never as simple as nailing down the facts of a situation. This hour, we go after a series of seemingly simple facts -- facts that offer surprising insight, facts that inspire deeply different stories, and facts that, in the end, might not matter at all." (from the website)

I live in Los Angeles. Fact. I have brown hair. Fact. Peppermint tea is the best kind of tea in the world. Truth. Camping is fun. Truth. My apartment is on the third floor. Fact. The view from my window is fantastic. Truth. I could keep going but hopefully I've gotten my first point across. A fact is something that is actual, that has really occurred or is the case. Truth is sincerity in action, the state of being the case.  This is purely my opinion, but the way I see it a fact is always true, but a truth is not always fact. Ok, now that you know my take on it I can proceed with the swirling mass of emotions and thoughts I've been trying to sort out all week.

RadioLab has often brought up intense feelings of all sorts for me. I've wondered at amazing stories. I've laughed and I've been overcome by sadness on more than one occasion.  They do have the storytelling down do a science. Until now.  I was listening to this episode during my morning hike on monday. The first story was interesting and had me thinking about how we tend to believe what we see and what we're told. I was happily trekking up the hill when the story titled "Yellow Rain" began. When it came to a close I stopped. Emotions I couldn't describe washed over me. I stood looking out over Griffith Observatory wanting to cry. I felt like something horrible had just happened, like i'd witnessed a crime. I wanted to cry, and I admit tears did well up but soon were replaced by anger and confusion. 

The piece on "Yellow Rain" is too multi faceted for me to even attempt to describe. Please listen to it and form your own opinion about what happened during this heart breaking interview with Kao Kalia Yang and her uncle Eng.  What I took from it was a heavy sadness that such a tragedy took place and that it had to come down to "semantics". The abrupt ending to an overdue conversation about what had happened to the Hmong people left me empty. When Ms. Yang referred to entire villages being slaughtered by communists and interpreted her uncle's words, "That's when we knew that the laws of humanity had been terminated", I was broken.  As the host, Robert Krulwich, kept trying to get to the "fact of the matter" he quite clearly had different intentions for the interview than Kalia and Eng. They wanted to tell their story, their truth and RadioLab wanted to tell their story, their truth. Kalia tearfully says the interview is over and then silence. What follows is a short discussion among the hosts about what had just happened and Jad eloquently says "what do you do when three truths are right?". Exactly. Sadly, editing here was just not well thought out. There is some laughter, some banter with jazzy music followed by a short spoken ad for some college or aural slap in the face.

I stood there on the trail. Really guys? Really? No words about how this didn't go the way it should have? No apology for the hurt feelings? Maybe a promise to explore the story of the Hmong people in a future RadioLab Short? Could you at least hand me a tissue? 

I do believe they had the best of intentions and what we, the listeners, don't see are the laborious hours that go into these programs. I suspect that certain callouses are built up when dealing with sensitive subjects on a daily basis. My instinct tells me that there are two sides to this as with all stories and our humanity tends to have us side with the underdog. I listened to a journalist talk this week about how he learned as a reporter that you can't always trust the victims because they have been traumatized and their "truth" might not be a "fact". I'm not saying what happened in this interview was okay, I'm simply trying to see both sides.  

Now for the final part of this roller coaster ride of a podcast. The "Skelly Story" upset me almost as much as "Yellow Rain" but for different reasons. Again, I don't want to tell the story here in case you havn't listened yet.  In short, it relates a long term friendship with a man that, in the end, the narrator realizes he never really knew.  

How do we spend so much time with people and not ever truly know them? I wonder if sometimes we know the truth but we choose not to see it for what it is because it would just be too painful or too hard to deal with.  Explain to me why we allow ourselves to be lied to by people we love? And how do we allow ourselves to be directed by the media? Every day we are hand fed "The News" which we take as fact. Is it? Have you investigated it for yourself? And as for the people in your life, I dare say once in a while a loved one tells you they are fine when they aren't. Perhaps they tell you their truth and you take it as fact. Should you? What would happen if you DID break those "unspoken rules of friendship"? I could go on for quite some time about how we don't truly get to know the people we love on a continual and growing basis. (Just because you knew her last month doesn't mean she is exactly the same today) Be curious about this world and the people in it. Question everything, even yourself.

Today I started writing this post a few times only to stop in frustration because I have too much to say. A few of the ideas it sparked will be saved for later posts that allow for it. 

For now I am left with one thought... 

It's not about the definition of truth versus fact. It's about what we do with the information given to us. 

Pod Club would love to have you as a member. Jill and I are going to keep picking interesting podcasts and talking about them. Don't forget to check out what she has to say about this and a whole bunch of other things...JUST JILL.  Please comment on our blogs, post on your own blog or turn to your neighbor in line at the grocery store and share your thoughts.

RadioLab has letter's from both Jad and Robert on their website concerning the story about Yellow Rain and the debate it has stirred up among their audience. Please listen to this podcast and read what they have to say on their website,  RadioLab.Org.

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