The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth, So Help Us God
I’m not really a movie person, but for some silly reason, I saw a movie when I was about 11, a piece of which has stayed with me for more than 50 years. Made in 1962, If a Man Answers starred Doris Day and Rock Hudson as a newly married couple.
Upon return from their honeymoon, Ms. Day’s mother sends her a small book that she maintains is about the care and keeping of husbands. The title: “How to Train a Neurotic Dog.” For serious. But that’s not what I remember. I remember one page of the book like I saw it yesterday.
When your husband is thirsty / and wants a drink /
Take him to the kitchen / and show him the sink.
It must have made quite an impression on me since I have not seen the movie since. I remember sitting with my mom and the two of us cackling like mad hyenas at the verse watching the film during the dawning of the first wave of feminism.
As I read this morning’s New York Times, a limerick-like paraphrase of this very verse arose in my mind.
When your people are hurting / and want release /
Take them to reality / and show them its peace.
No telling what a human brain will cook up. None.
Kevin Roose is a technology columnist. He has “spent the past several years reporting on our national reality crisis, and worr[ies] that unless the Biden administration treats conspiracy theories and disinformation as the urgent threats they are, our parallel universes will only drift further apart, and the potential for violent unrest and civic dysfunction will only grow.”
He “called a number of experts and asked what the Biden administration could do to help fix our truth-challenged information ecosystem, or at least prevent it from getting worse.”
Good question, but asked in the wrong venue, I believe. Let us consider that venue for the moment. Here’s some other news of the day:
Ten Republican senators came to The White House yesterday to offer their version of a compromise on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion disaster relief bill.
So let’s stop right there for a moment. People use two different epithets for this proposed bill mainly. One is disaster relief. The second is stimulus.
What you call it changes its purpose, Beloved. When the purpose of something — anything — changes, its structures and substance change to meet its purpose.
So is it disaster relief or is it stimulus? No one agrees.
Jamelle Bouie weighs in : “The question of this Covid relief package — and really, the next two years — is not whether Biden and the Democratic Party will appeal to Republicans in Congress. The question is whether Republicans will reconcile themselves to a reality in which the president has a mandate to act. The public wants bipartisanship and consensus. Will congressional Republicans give it to them?”
Okay, that’s one way to frame it, but it’s still not clear on which agenda the bill is intended to address.
Economist Paul Krugman is a little less equivocal. “The proposal is only a third of the size of Biden’s plan and would in important ways cut the heart out of economic relief. Republicans, however, want Biden to give in to their wishes in the name of bipartisanship. Should he? No, no, 1.9 trillion times, no.”
Well, that’s clear. I agree with him. Biden should absolutely listen — it models excellent behavior for We the People, but he should not now or ever give in.
Almost 100,000 people died of Covid last month in the U.S. alone. Parents cannot feed their children. People cannot go to work — because of childcare needs or because they no longer have work. Mr. Krugman again, “What we need, then, is disaster relief to get afflicted Americans through the harsh months ahead. And that’s what the Biden plan would do. Republicans, however, want to rip the guts out of this plan.”
It looks to me like these senators want to appear bipartisan whilst stripping every bit of the bill’s provisions they don’t like. That’s not compromise. In compromise, people promise together. In practice that means both sides give a little. Not just one.
Paul Krugman again. “So when one party is trying to pursue policies with overwhelming public support while the other offers lock-step opposition, who, exactly, is being divisive? Wait, there’s more.” No surprise there. There’s always more.
“In short, everything about this Republican counteroffer reeks of bad faith — the same kind of bad faith the G.O.P. displayed in 2009 when it tried to block President Barack Obama’s efforts to rescue the economy after the 2008 financial crisis. Obama, unfortunately, failed to grasp the nature of his opposition, and he watered down his policies in a vain attempt to win support across the aisle. This time, it seems as if Democrats understand what Lucy will do with that football and won’t be fooled again.”
Let us return to Kevin Roose. “[I]t raises an important question for the Biden administration: How do you unite a country in which millions of people have chosen to create their own version of reality?” He asked some experts, among them, Joan Donovan, the research director of Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. She “suggested that the Biden administration could set up a ‘truth commission.’” Others suggested we have a “reality czar.”
All of the experts agreed that to “put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism” was a good idea. “The[y] were heartened that the Biden administration had already announced a ‘comprehensive threat assessment’ of domestic extremism after the Capitol riots.”
This step cannot be glossed over, Beloved, if we want to face the trauma of the riot at The Capitol, and actually get to the peace we deserve. By that sort of peace, I mean inner peace.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a town hall gathering on Instagram recently and disclosed that she is a sexual assault survivor. Here are her words: “But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.” She is one hundred percent correct. Not only that but a second or ninetieth trauma reactivates the original trauma.
“Those who have argued that it is time to move on from the events of that day were using the same tactics of every other abuser who just tells you to move on.” She is also one hundred percent correct about this. I have my own experience to prove it. A lot of us do — men, women, and all the rest of us on the gender spectrum.
“My story isn’t the only story, nor is it the central story of what happened on Jan 6th. It is just one story of many of those whose lives were endangered at the Capitol by the lies, threats, and violence fanned by the cowardice of people who chose personal gain above democracy.”
April Crosby writes a Letter to the Editor from Cliff, NM this morning: “Why are people hoping that Marjorie Taylor Greene will clean up her act? Remember all those years people waited for Donald Trump to become ‘presidential?’ He didn’t and she won’t.” As Billy Porter borrowed from Maya Angelou, “Believe people the first time when they show you who they are.”
Beloved, the trauma is still very large, very real, very front and center, and it will be until we address it. Furthermore, it must be addressed before we shift to a recovery program for We the People. If it isn’t, it will go underground. As the title of a book on my office shelf reminds me daily, “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die.”
Back to Kevin Roose. One of the mandates of the Biden domestic terrorist task force will be to “use new and narrower labels that could help distinguish between different types of movements, and different levels of influence within those movements. A paranoid retiree who spends all day reading QAnon forums isn’t the same as an armed militia leader, and we should delineate one from the other.”
Indeed, what this means is that the task force needs to look at what really is, to follow their own advice, and pay attention to reality.
“[T]he federal government’s response to disinformation and domestic extremism is haphazard and spread across multiple agencies, and there’s a lot of unnecessary overlap.” One of the experts commented, “ — a centralized task force could coordinate a single, strategic response.”
The suggestions ran the gamut from “audit the algorithms” for more tech transparency to “teaching media literacy” using education as the usual American silver bullet. Some called this a “public safety issue” and others called it a “public health issue.” “One effective countermeasure could be a kind of ‘social stimulus’ — a series of federal programs to encourage people to get off their screens and into community-based activities that could keep them engaged and occupied.”
“Most of the experts agreed that the most effective thing the Biden administration could do to fix our national reality crisis, and possibly even de-radicalize some of those who have been lured into extremist groups and conspiracy theory movements, would be to address the underlying problems that drove them there in the first place.”
And this is where the original question goes off the rails: what could the Biden administration do to solve the domestic terrorism issue? Since exactly when has any government anywhere addressed underlying causes?
Maybe in South Africa in 1995 when The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a court-like body, was assembled. Anybody who felt they had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution. during their work for national reconciliation over the abuses perpetrated by apartheid. There is also a TRC in Canada.
Truth, Beloved, starting at the federal level and cascading down to the smallest of the Whos in Whoville is what is needed for reconciliation. In fact, it is the only road to reconciliation. This is why I applaud Representative Ocasio-Cortez — she hasn’t ever shied away from the hard conversations.
So many, including those 10 allegedly bipartisan senators, want to bypass the necessary process and go back to business as usual. It just won’t fly, Beloved. Not any more.
Mr. Roose concludes, “In other words, if President Biden wants to bring extremists and conspiracy theorists back to reality, he can start by making that reality worth coming back to.” But he can’t do it alone because unless we do it with him, he’ll be just as offensive as 45 was to so many of us.
Truth isn’t fast, Beloved. But it is deep. I think the reason my brain delivered up that quasi-silly — because I sure did mean it — verse this morning is because I’ve long held that peace is the only end we could all agree upon. But not world peace, no. Not peace with others necessarily. No, real peace must always and forever start with inner peace.
As @hecksign, my friend artist and peacemaker Brad Heckman, wrote on his portrait of Betty Shabazz in her own words, “We can say ‘peace on earth,’ we can sing about it, preach about it, or pray about it, but if we have not internalized the mythology to make it happen inside us, then it will not be.” She is so deeply, madly, truly right.
Once we have that within ourselves then we’ll be able to look outside and begin to make peace with one another as we stumble along together on the long, slow, wide road of truth.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com