Wednesday, August 12, 2009
To Tell the Truth
...is boring. Truth, apparently, is too plain. Mousey, limp-haired, dull, flat-chested. Dull brown eyes, gangly, washed-out. Truth is boring. It must be. For all the dressing up it gets. I can't listen to the news anymore. I get apoplectic. Congressmen hung in effigy. Death threats. Loaded handguns at town hall meetings. The health care reform debate has degenerated into gutter-snipe. I'm scared. The truth of the matter at hand is boring. Thousands of words typed in eight point font, subjunctives, and subordinate clauses. Complex ideas and proposals. All of which is reduced to provocative slogans. That mislead. Misrepresent. Misinterpret. Slogans ginned up to excite and disturb, adverts paid for by stakeholders. Elected officials sounding more like two-bit pundits. Scare tactics. Fear-mongering. There is more obfuscation than clarification coming from the -- yes, I'll tip my hand -- right side of the aisle. "Obama will kill your grandma." "Mandatory abortions." You've heard them. I'm waiting for somebody to announce that frontal lobotomies will be required for the parents of teenagers. Or teachers of grammar. I'm not here to argue about health care. I've already got the best health and wellness insurance policy in the world (seriously) so I really don't give a damn about the rest of you all. No. Just kidding. In fact, because I do have the best health care one could possibly hope for, I believe I should not be especially privileged. You should have it too. I'm here to advocate for telling the truth. And specifically, to not shroud it in lies. Truth can be boring. And inconvenient. Not always but often, and especially for those who like the status quo, who have something to hide, something to gain from keeping the lights off. The guy who attacked me in the church parking lot was egged on by folks who were afraid that I was about to tell some inconvenient and upsetting truths about the history of the congregation I served, to disclose hidden information that had been poisoning its atmosphere for decades, about clergy sexual abuse. They stirred up an enormous fuss about the dangers of, well, me. I ate babies. I pooped bunnies. I cooked up cauldrons of toddlers for lunch. I don't really know what all was said, but it was ridiculous. I was a monster. I was dangerous. I had to be stopped. The issue at stake was not the threat of universal health care but a threat that I could disclose dangerous, old, and some not so old secrets. What if I told the truth? I had to be stopped. Ironically, I didn't even know all of the dangerous secrets at the time. I learned them afterward, from colleagues who helped me to understand why I was targeted and why the attacks were so vicious. It is true that sometimes, people will stop at nothing. And distracting lies get the mob stirred up. In that situation, as in the current one, the real perpetrators, those who have the most to lose, are in shadows, hidden behind preposterous accusations lest the real issues come out. I woke up trembling again this morning. Another nightmare. I don't have them as often as I used to, not even close. But they still come and they are debilitating. It takes hours, sometimes a day or two, to shake off the terror and devastation I feel afterward. When this page is not updated for a few days, you may assume this is the cause. Evil has faces, and voices, in those nightmares. Deceptively sweet smiles and smoothed, coiffed hair, pious words, disarming goofiness. Diabolical determination to mask the truth, to twist and hide it. It's an old trick that magicians depend on. Deflection, distraction: look here so you don't notice what I'm doing over there. It is dangerous. It was for me. But it was dangerous to the community too. They too were harmed and perhaps in some instances, more than I was. And it is dangerous now. For our national community. Let's debate the real issues. Starting with the truth. Meanwhile, move aside, Warsaw. We got you beat. Poland has a reputation for contentious politics. It is well earned. There are days when headlines in Warsaw remind me more of middle school than national government. Feuds over chairs -- who gets to sit at the head of the table and, literally, on what kind of chair --and crude accusations of collaboration with Communist era secret police. It is ugly. Has been for centuries. The Poles are said to do much better when fighting together against a common enemy -- Russians, Germans -- than when stuck with the tedium of getting along with each other. In twenty years, they are still waiting for the cooperation required to build a decent long-distance expressway. Too much sniping. More of that later. For now, though, they can't hold a candle against the deliberate efforts we've got going to keep the health care debate away from the real questions, the workable ones, the problems that a consensus can come up with solutions to resolve. It is dangerous. To public leaders who are being targeted. And to us all. Telling the truth seems dangerous sometimes. But not telling it is far, far worse.