Alternate facts and the incredible hulk
When the weather was still warm, the grass green, the leaves yet on their respective trees, when the sun was higher, shinning longer, brighter in a sky whose clouds were white, not grey, before all the chaos and confusion brought so much exhaustion, before rumor caused our congressman to seek our votes’ exclusion, before this pandemic’s reality descended to a catastrophe — there was fire’s ability to leave a charred remains.
And it did — at the corner of Lewis Street and Washington Avenue in Alpena. Fire gutted an apartment house there, leaving a hulk with a dirty yellow ribbon tied around it, but no bow on top — this charred package was no one’s present.
The building burned on May 24. Since that date, it has languished vacant. Or has it?
How is it that it yet stands in defiance of the house wrecker’s ball? Does some remnant of its noble spirit yet fight on?
Or has this once-proud building been co-opted by a sinister force seeking to apply what’s left of it to some dark purpose?
There are facts — actual facts — those facts used by good newspaper reporters and their editors — real truths excavated from accumulations of confusion and diversion.
There are also alternate facts — adulterated facts espoused by people wishing to avoid the hard work of digging for actual ones.
The fire that has virtually destroyed this old apartment house is an actual fact, but the reason its hulk still stands is open to speculation, using facts that have no actual in them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to occasional small measures of flattering fabrication — facts lacking a full measure of actual can occasionally be helpful. “White lies” have served me well over the years, especially when having to face some unfortunate truth about myself.
But we have to draw a line. A steady diet of alternate facts can, in time, fool us. If we start believing this stuff, negatives are created that drag us down and divide us into fabricated factions that, in actual fact, don’t exist.
Some politicians use alternative facts for their promotion. Bogus stuff that grabs people’s attention when they’re off guard, like when they’re tabulating their grocery bill. Alternate facts cause mistakes in how we add things add up.
Take, for example, the claim of fraudulent ballots — a fundamental attack on our democratic process. Reports are rife they exist in significant numbers — but no one finds them. Could some be secreted in the basement of the burned-out hulk?
Has something wicked this way come? In the cold dark of the hulk’s basement, are negative alternative facts stored that have no actual in them?
When I drove by there recently, no lights were on.
What is credible about this incredible hulk’s continued existence other than a lack of light?
I checked with Mike Kieliszewski at the city Building Department.
Mike was well aware of the building. He advised me that no occupancy or storage exists or is permitted there, its current condition not being safe, nor was he aware of any interested party seeking to prevent its demolition.
Mike advised me the delay was related to insurance issues now resolved. A demolition bid has been secured and accepted. The hulk is to be demolished, the rubble removed, the site filled and leveled this spring.
This New Year, it would be most helpful if swayable politicians resolved to speak the truth based on actual fact. They could take the lead in disabusing fraudulent contentions and encourage a celebration of truthful things that sustain us and unite us, not factual alternatives calculated to divide and destroy us.
Political action, based on accurate perception — what a fine New Year’s gift that would be!
If they have trouble telling the difference between actual facts and those that aren’t, they can check with Mike over at the city Building Department.
In a New Year filled with promise, it’s essential they ask.
Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.