Martha Thomases: Holiday Facts and Checking Facts

How is your holiday shopping going? Mine is mostly finished, because I am a selfish person and don’t give gifts to very many people. However no matter how many people you love or how many people to whom you feel obligated, I’d like to make a suggestion for the perfect present.

The truth.

I don’t mean the excellent graphic novel by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker, although you should definitely consider it if you haven’t already. No, I mean the actual truth.

If the last several months have shown us anything, it is that, to most Americans, the truth is a fungible thing. Anything is true if you want it to be true. Fact-checking is for suckers. This isn’t healthy for us as individuals, nor for the country as a whole.

It certainly doesn’t bode well for our government. And by forcing news-gathering organizations to make profits, we ensure that we will not get the best news, but the most popular. We won’t get the most facts, but we’ll know if Kanye dyed his hair.

(I’m very sorry that I know this.)

It’s important to get the news from reliable sources. My go-to page is The New York Times. They make mistakes, and they have a bias towards their most affluent readers, but they hire good people and give them the space to write real stories. You could do worse than to send someone a subscription.

I don’t just read the Times, however. I read all sorts of things, and you should, too. Your hometown paper could probably use a few more subscribers. It’s useful to check in with the BBC and other international sources. The Week is a magazine that collects and digests news from all over. Full disclosure: I worked for a PR firm that had The Week as a client a decade ago.Different national perspectives are important. So are different cultural perspectives. The overwhelming majority of professional journalists in this country are white. I’m not questioning their commitment to the truth, but no single one of us can represent every single possible perspective. Give yourself a gift this solstice and seek out news and opinions from people who don’t look like you. If I might quote from this fascinating piece:

“… over my relatively short career, I have met so many wildly talented and generous and serious minority journalists who have provided me with emotional and spiritual sup
port that I will never be able to repay. These relationships are still there. The talent is still there. The audience for our work is still there. What’s changed is where we will publish that work and the spaces in which we will foster new friendships and rivalries.

“But, comics!” you wail. “I come to this website to read about comics!” I hear you, Constant Reader. As a comics fan, you have an opportunity to discover lots of important ideas in the very medium you love. For example, Brought to Light is a spectacularly paranoid and well-researched book from 1988 about spies and drugs and American duplicity. It’s a beautiful and bloody masterpiece.

If you want to give something more recent –and slightly more upbeat – I suggest Trashed, an autobiographical discussion about environmental issues, class and capitalism. Not only did this book encourage my efforts at composting, but I also tie up my trash bags much more securely since reading about all the gross things sanitation workers have to put up with.

For your loved ones who enjoy musical theater, you could do worse than give Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s moving story about her father, her mother, and her own coming of age. It’s the inspiration for the Tony Award winning musical, and it tells a harrowing story about families and how dangerous it is to live in the closet.

I’m learning more about Singapore than I ever knew I wanted to know in The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew. This biography of a fictional cartoonist reveals so much about pop culture, colonialism and the twentieth century.

And I didn’t even know this book, Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels and Anime even existed, but I sent away for it so I could learn about an area of our beloved medium that is new territory to me. Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you if it’s any good.

It should be obvious that I don’t know every possible gift that can expand your world – or mine. Please leave your suggestions in the comments.