What is truth? And why does it matter?
I was a liar for the first 21 years of my life. At the age of 22 (I don’t count my first year, when I wasn’t talking yet) I ran so hard into the massive shit-pile of these lies that it knocked me flat and if I was going to survive, I had to learn another way of being. It took a while to feel and appreciate the lifting of that intolerable weight, to adjust to being free from that rat in the belly, having to weave the next lie to sustain the last one. So it affects me deeply to realize that we have become a country where, for millions of people, truth is an unknown quantity, and admiration is lavished on the most extravagant liars.
I think that what confounds and disturbs me most deeply is that they seem to have fun doing it. While I detest the idea, the game of “owning the libs” looks like any other game, it’s fun to win, and I can hate that but understand the kick. It’s the more elemental and profound lying that makes my gut hurt.
I didn’t have fun lying. When I was a toddler, I didn’t know anything about “lying.” I just did and said whatever I thought would keep me safe. I learned very early what would get approval and what would provoke flame-thrower rage, and I was smart.
I also had a psyche that was primed to interpret anything as criticism, denigration, even if that might not have been the intent. Those things were acid on thin skin, and I did whatever I could to bury them, shove them deep, and avoid running into them again. I dodged and weaved and lied and somehow always came up humiliated, but I kept trying. I lied for survival.
These folk are having what looks like a wonderful time doing this. They’re not lying for survival, they’re lying for power and they’re looking at the applause meter. I hate to say it, but they’re performers.
And I’m a performer. I stand on stage and embody someone who is not me but who lives through me and speaks to the audience. The character works through me to reveal truth, and I hope that those who see it can feel it resonate in their own beings. In the decade that I performed the child-abuse play Dessie, I heard from many who felt that resonance and reclaimed their own lives. That’s not lying.
Performers who seek to create a self-serving world that aggrandizes their own power are another thing, and it is far more seductive than I had thought possible. A cult attracts those who have a sad diminished center, those who need a strong assertive figure to be their leader-figure, to go boldly forth and tell them how to follow. We need to find ways to empower people, to make them comfortable in their own true skins. There is so much built into our own nation’s structure that prepetrates abuse; we need to see it and reject it and counter it.
The hurting people need community. We need to make it happen.