Truth, Justice and the American Way

“What should I write about for the Ashfield News?” I asked Jeannine. 

I was thinking: snow, ordering seeds for the garden, not being able to have dinner with friends, etc.

“TRUTH!” she called from the kitchen.

Well, that should be easy.

Mind you, she had been listening for days to the pre-game and post-game commentary on the impeachment trial. Not to mention the trial itself. From what I heard, TRUTH was on trial for its life, or for its place in our public life. 

I never expect truth, the whole truth from any government; government just isn’t suited for it. In 1970 the U.S. kept reporting that we were not bombing Cambodia, a neutral government. Simultaneously, Quaker doctors and nurses were returning home, coming to churches to tell us about deaths and injuries from the bombings –  one tiny example.

Then there are the bedrock lies: we are not racist country, anyone can get out of poverty if they work hard enough, “we” civilized the wild west, English is the official language of the United States, and so on. These bedrock lies require upheaval just to nudge them off their pedestal. 

The torture Jeannine watched, live, was the transformation of a one-off lie by a corrupt official – the election was stolen – into a bedrock lie, accepted by an alarming number of Americans as TRUTH, a truth worth storming the Capitol for. The truth about the justice of our election system deserves a few books to sort through; nonetheless, the consequences of this lie is immediate. 

Of course I have my own lies of various kinds: years ago, a co-worker at World Eye Bookshop would buy books and put them on the bottom of a grocery bag so his wife wouldn’t know how many books he bought; I buy books on Kindle so Jeannine doesn’t know. (Cat’s out of the bag now.) 

And I have my bedrock lies, the ones below the top crust of soil that are exposed only after much digging, or by sudden self-awareness. For instance, at another job, a black student on a bowling-scholarship told me he was studying to be a doctor. I was surprised. That instant, my own race and class prejudice was revealed. I was shocked at myself. It took a while for me to take it in. The trouble with uncovering bedrock lies is that the revelation is so humiliating when they are exposed. Thus the bedrock lies are so much more difficult to find, and then face. 

For people like Jeannine, watching a roomful of powerful people doodling on iPads instead of facing truth and facing themselves, was horrifying. So many Americans read, learn, listen, in order to expose the lies within that keep us from being free. It was like watching a precious gift being thrown in the trash.

Dan Berrigan once said about Dorothy Day, “She lived as though the Truth were actually true.”

I looked online for an appropriate quote for the wall over the U.S. Senate Chamber. I found one, reportedly from karma,

“I saw that.”