If you ask most people, they’d tell you that truth is a good thing. Perhaps even the best of things. However, as Shakespeare taught us and science has confirmed, there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.
- Honesty: Telling the truth. People being honest about what they did or how they feel. Really, this is people telling their STORY as they understand it without intentional deception. I’m generally all for that but it’s really about openness and transparency.
- The Truth with a Capital T: Claiming that your beliefs or feelings are an exact match for the world. Cultures fall into this trap all the time. They forget that every story has two sides and that their side of the story is just ONE side.
In the end, the Vietnam War is a staggering example of why the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s fight. It’s not that they’re looking at different facts. They’re looking at the same facts but interpreting them in different ways. Was the United States in Vietnam? Yes. The United States saw this as part of a historic global crusade in the name of freeeeeeeedom. The Vietnamese interpreted the U.S. presence as just one more in a long line of colonial invaders. McNamara dismisses this interpretation out of hand. McNamara knows The Truth with a Capital T. He believes that his interpretation is the correct one and so he feels justified in waging war on the Vietnamese.
In part, McNamara’s interpretation made so much sense to him because he had statistics. So many statistics. But they were based on bad assumptions about the beliefs and feeeeeeelings of the Vietnamese. Killing the Vietnamese didn’t make them less likely to fight. It made them want to fight more. Both the United States and the Vietnamese had the feeeeeeeling of truth. And that feeeeeeeling has a very specific name in science: naive realism.