On count 1: Guilty
On count 2: Guilty
On count 3: Guilty
And I sobbed.
I had been sitting in my backyard intending to read, but all I was really doing was staring at the electric pink blossoms still gripping the redbud trees and watching the wind ripple the water on the lake. I had a lot on my mind, so I never even cracked open the book.
When the clouds moved in, I got a little chilly so I went inside and absentmindedly turned on the news. I saw that a verdict in the Derek Chauvin case was expected momentarily, so I sat silent, my heart racing.
When the judge walked in the courtroom, my anxiety rose. I told myself I couldn’t expect these jurors to do what so few others had ever done before.
But they did. They found Officer Chauvin guilty, in the eyes of the courts, of murdering George Floyd.
I am not Black. I’m still trying to grasp the reality of systemic racism. I have never been followed by the police or interrogated for suspicious behavior. I have never lost a family member to police brutality. But I sobbed like a baby after Chauvin was convicted.
The last couple of weeks have been so difficult. First it was Daunte Wright. Then Adam Toledo. Multiple mass shootings.
Even for a privileged bystander, it never, never seems to end.
But today we got a little relief. A brief glimmer of hope that something, something could change. That justice was possible.
Many are telling us not to read too much into this one verdict. It doesn’t change the family’s grief. It doesn’t change the fact that more Black lives were taken by police today. It doesn’t diminish the fear some parents have each time their child leaves home. It doesn’t change the flagrant racism and hatred we continue to witness in our country.
But maybe this will help us find the strength to keep fighting for right. Perhaps it will prevent us from giving in to despair.
I am relieved. I am even a little hopeful. Perhaps Mr. Floyd has indeed changed the world.
Cathy Eads, of Atlanta, Ga., questions her governor's support for the Election Integrity Act of 2021. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
“Are you a politician or does lying just run in your family?”
― Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
― Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Oh, Brian Kemp, you never cease to disgust me with your strident attempts to misrepresent voter suppression as some sort of election protection. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: You are likely the governor of Georgia because you assumed the roles of both player and umpire in that political game. I know of no other instance, in a democracy, where the candidate has also been the officiant of the race. Even former Georgia Representative Karen Handel, who has her own record of supporting right wing policies that hurt a vast number of her constituents, resigned her position as Georgia Secretary of State to run for governor in 2010.
Maybe signing this legislation to limit access to voting is an attempt to show 45 that you really do believe the Big Lie—and get back into his better graces. After all, when you refused to reject Georgia’s results of the 2020 presidential race, 45 did threaten you specifically with retaliation during your upcoming re-election campaign. Honestly, Governor, I think you hurt yourself more than 45 ever could have by passing that Voter Suppression Law in a private signing while having Georgia House Representative Park Cannon unlawfully arrested for knocking on the door of the signing room. I mean, did you watch the cell phone video(s) of her arrest?
Don’t you know that the best way to motivate proud, hard-working people to sure as hell go out and do something they have a right to under the law is to try to tell them they can’t, or that you are gonna make it harder for them to do it? Oh yeah, you do, you are a gun rights supporter. Well, let’s just say you and Georgia’s Republican state legislators have motivated the weary opposing team more than any half time Super Bowl coach’s pep talk ever could. I’m willing to bet that you’ve moved some of your moderate supporters to switch sides to save democracy as we know it, imperfect as it is. Georgia’s new Voter Suppression Law has pushed voter protection, and hopefully passage of H.R. 1, the For The People Act, to the forefront of federal legislative priorities for pro-democracy Congress members. So, thank you for that!
Governor, please stop referring to voter suppression laws as a means of ensuring election integrity. This idea is built on The Big Lie and it’s an insult to your intelligent constituents. It’s a show of your desperation to hold on to power, and of your lack of personal integrity.
On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer in his mid-40s, evidently decided that 46-year-old George Floyd’s alleged infraction of passing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill should cost him his life. Three other officers watched as Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds—even longer than we had originally understood.
Despite exhortations from the other officers and the citizens standing nearby, despite Floyd’s pleas to let him breathe and his invocation of his recently deceased mother, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck until he was no longer breathing. And then he kept his knee on his neck for another three and a half minutes.
Chauvin’s defense attorneys have posed a number of counterarguments during the initial days of the trial, including that Floyd had illicit drugs in his system, that he had a heart condition that contributed to his death, and that his physical size made him a threat to the officers even after he was handcuffed and lying face down on the ground.
Over the past 10 months we have learned a bit more about George Floyd and his family. We know he was a college athlete who struggled to stay in school and struggled with addiction. He spent some time in prison. We know he had moved from Houston to Minneapolis to try to turn his life around. During the trial, we saw his fiancée describe his kindness when he had first approached her at the Salvation Army where he was working security. For months we have witnessed the courage and the oratory and the passion of Floyd’s siblings and his cousins. We’ve seen the confusion of his bright-eyed young daughter whose father is now famous.
He has come to feel like someone we knew, like someone we might encounter joking around at a corner market just like Cup Foods.
That’s what Tessa Bishop Hoggard has accomplished in her book In the Courthouse’s Shadow. Through diligent research, she has fleshed out the story of one heretofore anonymous young Black man who was lynched in Paris, Ky., in 1901 after being accused of a minor crime. Like George Floyd, George Carter had previously run afoul of the law but was trying to settle down with his young family and build a good life. Like Floyd, Carter never had a chance to claim his innocence or plead his case. A group of white men with power in his community decided that he should pay with his life for a crime that we have no evidence ever even occurred.
We also learn that others who endured a fate similar to Carter’s were described in the press the same way, whether accurate or not: “burly negroes over 200 pounds.” As in Floyd’s case, physical size—or perceived physical size—justified illegal actions.
In Hoggard’s book, we learn about Carter’s family, their hopes and their dreams, and what happened to them after he was killed. We learn the fate of his two young daughters. We also learn about the family of the white woman who identified him as the man who had assaulted her, a crime that was originally reported as an attempted purse snatching. We learn about the fate of her eight-year-old son, who witnessed the assault and helped the sheriff identify Carter as the assailant.
We learn that George Carter, like George Floyd, was a father, a son, a brother—a human being. He was not just a statistic of early 20th-century racial injustice. Just as George Floyd was not merely another victim of 21st-century police brutality.
This is a problem our nation obviously has not solved. On March 18, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on anti-Asian American violence and discrimination, Republican Congressman Chip Roy of Texas said, “We believe in justice. There are old sayings in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. We take justice very seriously. And we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys. That's what we believe." Afterwards Roy refused to apologize for his choice of words and doubled down on the language.
As columnist Charles Blow recently wrote in the New York Times: “It is hard not to draw the through-line from a noose on the neck to a knee on the neck. And it is also hard not to recall that few people were ever punished for lynchings. Motionless Black bodies have been the tableau upon which the American story has unfolded…”
Those who witnessed George Floyd’s murder have testified about their sense of helplessness at the time and the enormous guilt they still carry. Some videotaped the crime and shared it with the world in horror. Those who discovered George Carter’s body hanging in front of the courthouse on that cold February morning tarried at the scene and took photos, seemingly proud of the town’s latest trophy and the message it sent.
Is that a sign of some progress in the last 120 years? Are we finally beginning to push back on these unforgivable acts of oppression and subjugation? What would we do if we found ourselves witnesses to such a crime? Would we simply stand by and watch, as the two doormen in New York recently chose to do as a 65-year-old Asian American woman was being assaulted on the sidewalk in front of their building? Or would we find the power to act?
In 1901, George Carter was only 21 years old when he was lynched. I wonder if he, in his final moments, silently called for his mother.
Murky Press is proud to offer In the Courthouse’s Shadow: The Lynching of George Carter in Paris, Kentucky through Amazon or by contacting Murky Press directly here. We encourage you to recommend the book to others or post a brief review on Amazon to help spread the word.
Cathy Eads, of Atlanta, Ga., reflects on her experience raising a family in a multi-cultural community. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
Daoyou Feng was 44 when she was shot and killed in the Asian hate crime spree in Atlanta on March 16. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she had only been working in the spa a few weeks when she was murdered. She was a Chinese citizen with no known family in the United States and no family able to travel to the U.S. to bury her. She was one of six Asian American women out of a total of eight victims shot to death during the multi-site killings.
For 17 years I lived in a suburb of Atlanta that has a very large Asian and Indian population. My children had friends, classmates, and neighbors from Pakistan, India, South Korea, and Japan. Their elementary school displayed the flags from the countries of students’ families. The technicolor array of banners encircled the entire cafeteria. The PTA staged an international night each spring that included a smorgasbord of delicious authentic dishes lovingly prepared by many of these families. Warm friendly smiles animated their faces as they proudly served up, and showed off, the delicacies of their home lands. The high school had a similar event that featured native dress, dances, and other performing and cultural arts.
When my son entered college at the University of Kentucky, he said, “Mom, it just feels a little weird being around so many white people all the time.”
When my daughter was young, I co-led a 12-member Girl Scout Troop with a mix of Asian, Indian, and Caucasian girls. They were as varied in personality and temperament as any group of girls could be—because they were all individuals, of course, not just because they had ancestry from different continents.
Moving to Georgia from Kentucky, I’m glad fate drew us to our particular neighborhood so my family got to know, and appreciate, the richness of many cultures, and to work, learn, and socialize with people from so many different backgrounds. Whether they were from Houston or Hyderabad, Seoul or South Carolina, we are better humans for knowing them.
Just like I’m sure there are people who are better humans for knowing Daoyou Feng.
Can we stop hate that’s planted and nurtured in dehumanizing otherness? Can we find a way to instill in every heart and mind that human beings are all, first and foremost, fellow human beings—all valuable, all equally entitled to live life with respect and dignity?
I haven’t given up hope that we can cultivate compassion for all of humanity. Impossible as it may seem, I also believe that we must. I guess the most important question is, how?
My name is Sallie, and I am a basketball fanatic.
I blame my mother. About the time I was entering my early teens, I recall how surprised I was to find my serious, book-reading mother occasionally watching University of Kentucky basketball games on TV. I don’t remember her talking about basketball much, but she had taken me to a few high school games, where my cousins starred. Up until that point, though, I hadn’t thought of her as someone who watched sports on television. At the time, I was devoted to Wide World of Sports and broadcasts of the Olympic games, but no one in my household was a fan of professional sports. I couldn’t imagine how my mother had the patience for such a tedious, and to me at the time boring, pursuit.
But I took notice. Basketball was not frivolous. Her interest had given it a certain heft.
When I was in college, UK won a national championship. Shortly afterward, so did the University of Louisville. My interest was piqued again. When home for the holidays, I watched what games were available. I started developing loyalties and interest in the players.
By the time I went to graduate school in Chapel Hill, N.C., I was hooked. While there, UNC and N.C. State won championships. I adored Jim Valvano. Some guy with an unpronounceable name had just started coaching at nearby Duke, trying to pull that team up from the bottom of the heap. Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty, and Brad Daugherty wandered in and out of the foreign languages building where I taught. I was mesmerized.
Settling back in Kentucky after school, there was almost no way to avoid full basketball fanaticism. It was all around me. It was what I had in common with the majority of people I encountered. Some were suspicious of me because I rooted for both UK and UofL. But I was a pure college basketball fan. If a team was on TV and the players had signs of talent, I was interested. I was awed by their athleticism. By their tenacity. By their skill.
If you know me at all, you’ve probably heard me say, “God gave Kentuckians basketball to help us through our dark, dreary winters.” Why else would the typical college basketball season begin when the time changes in November and end in April, just as we’re all busting to get back outside?
Some of my friends still have trouble reconciling that someone who loves a good book and a classical music concert also loves college basketball. Thankfully, I have a handful of cousins who are just as diverse in their interests as I am. During this strange basketball season and the unexpectedly exciting men’s NCAA tournament, my cousins and I have connected from our homes in two different (rival) states. It’s been sheer delight watching their take on the games: the scientist who’s crunching the stats in real-time; the former player who’s questioning the coach’s call or the offensive set; the UofL and IU grad who’s trying to remain loyal to his alma maters and the Big Ten while honoring his Kentucky roots; and me, the simple-minded humanist who’s interested in the characters and the drama that’s playing out on the floor. While my cousins are breaking down plays, I’m texting “Woohoo! What a pass.” I don’t see the intricacies of the game; but I do see effort, determination, teamwork, and joy.
Another basketball season is about to end. I have a favorite team in the Final Four whose players unexpectedly earned my love and devotion only a month ago. The two teams I followed all season never even made it into the tournament. Initially I thought that meant I’d have a March free to do other things, but I surprised even myself. I adapted. I watched the games because I find beauty in the athletes’ ability. It makes me happy. And these days, that’s the only reason I need to invest some time in front of the TV.
P.S. Before you ask, of course I’m an equally avid fan of the women’s game! I’ll pull for our SEC arch-rival South Carolina in the Final Four, even though it hurts just a bit.
Vince Fallis, of Rabbit Hash, Ky., recalls a previous nationwide vaccination effort. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
On March 9, I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a well-organized assembly line managed by St. Elizabeth Medical Center, also known as The Empire around these parts. I was in the old folks group because I am one. Everyone seemed eager, yet somewhat reserved, as we went through the process. I profusely thanked the vaccinator, since I understand most are volunteers. I think we should have a parade for them when this is over (if it is ever over).
I felt somewhat elated as I drove away. Barbara and I will now be able to see the granddaughters. That has not happened since last fall. Excruciating.
The whole experience also brought back the memory of a day in 1955 when I stood with my parents, Leonard and Virginia, and my brother, Dave, in a long line outside Beechwood School to receive the Salk vaccine. I knew very little about polio but remember seeing on our black-and-white TV the images of dreary, hopeless hospital wards filled with iron lungs with only the heads of the pitiful victims visible.
In our minds the polio vaccine was a miracle that would keep us from the fate of those we saw in those terrifying hospital scenes. However, as an 8-year-old standing in that line, I was experiencing what I would now recognize as an approach-avoidance conflict. Some years before I had undergone the painful series of rabies shots after a dog bite, and I wasn’t sure how closely this vaccination would match up to that somewhat traumatic memory. But I survived, and we were thrilled to do our part to eliminate the dreaded virus. Drs. Salk and later Sabin became national heroes.
Fast forward to the present day. With over 550,000 of our fellow Americans already struck down by the novel coronavirus, many of my surviving fellow citizens have now made shunning the vaccine an emblem of personal freedom, tribal politics, or general disbelief in science. Substantial numbers of adults—many with higher education and, I must assume, a reasonable level of intelligence—have chosen to decline the vaccine.
Barbara recently said that if polio threatened us today, it would not be eradicated. I agree. Perhaps more disturbing is our total inability to come together for the common good. We see other acts of humanity: volunteers handing out boxes of food to long lines of people who have lost their livelihood during the pandemic; donors generously opening their wallets to help those in areas stricken by natural disasters; yellow-vested volunteers walking through Chinatown to deter criminals who are attacking people of Asian descent. Many choose to participate in these acts of compassion, but protecting each other from a deadly virus is, for some, a bridge too far.
I’m coming close to going off the rails, but I must say one more thing. We should all be outraged when we see white males wearing clothing displaying Nazi images. My uncle, John C. Goodlett, the father of my dear cousin, Sallie Showalter, walked through one of the death camps during World War II. We have a handwritten letter in which he describes the experience. I often wonder how he did not see those images every night when he was trying to sleep.
This country yearns for a new call to the real meaning of Patriotism, not one based in hate and exclusion, but one that lifts us up by working for the common good of everyone in this country. Will this happen? You may be skeptical. But I remain the eternal optimist. Peace be with you.
I am a descendant of thieves.
One grandfather—while a partner in an automobile dealership—stole a friend’s 1920 Oakland Sedan and then wrecked it, resulting in damages to the tune of $1,000. During the Great Depression, my other grandfather evidently mismanaged some county funds, perhaps to his benefit. About the same time, my maternal grandmother’s half-brother, while working in the Kentucky Auditor’s office, pocketed more than $20,000 in state money in an elaborate six-year scheme. In 1885, my great-great uncle was charged with embezzlement in Kentucky—a great embarrassment, evidently, to his many benefactors, including U.S. Senator Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn. In 1897, the same uncle was charged with forgery in California.
Embezzlers. Grifters. Hucksters. Glory be.
Before their alleged malfeasance was exposed, each man had by all accounts been a well-respected government functionary or businessman, a churchgoer from a locally recognized family. There had been not a whiff of impropriety, as far as I’m aware.
But something compelled each of them to make a bad decision, or a series of them—to take risks that may have been uncharacteristic of their normal dealings. The temptation was too great. Human frailty prevailed.
When the repercussions became apparent, two ran away, leaving Kentucky behind. Two didn’t live to see the matter resolved. Family paid the price of their perfidy.
We are more than our misdeeds, of course. We are all complex: good and bad, wise and foolish, brave and cowardly, generous and selfish. None of us can predict how we might have responded to their particular circumstances. As I chew on another juicy tidbit about my mysterious ancestors, I have to remind myself not to let that one savory crumb define them.
I have learned that families don’t tend to share this information with each other. Why not just sweep it under that very lumpy rug? Nothing good could come from talking about the family troubles. After all, these problems were all in the past, safely locked away in faltering memory. That is, until some nosy granddaughter starts picking through yellowed newspaper articles.
On the one hand, I am happy that my ancestors were “colorful.” I would have lost interest long ago if they had only been Sunday School superintendents and hard-working family providers. In small towns like Lawrenceburg and Paris and Harrodsburg, some of that probity would have gotten them mentions in the local newspapers. As it was, the society pages detailed their comings and goings. But, as always, I imagine the scandals sold more papers.
What this teaches us, of course, is that our ancestors were just as complicated as we are. Each of us has had moments when we filled with pride and moments we hope will never be known to any other living soul. Unfortunately for my ancestors, these particular moments of weakness, these missteps were captured by the press—or the courts.
If we’re lucky, no yet-to-be-born great-granddaughter will stumble across accounts of our failings. Perhaps the public persona we’ve all so carefully crafted for our friends and families—and ourselves—will hold.
But our moral failings partially define us, whether we want to admit it or not. We’re not just the sum of the good things. It’s never that simple.
Some of my ancestors were thieves. And loving husbands and fathers. And hard-working citizens. And human beings, as inscrutable as we all are. Sometimes even to ourselves.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my good friend Tessa Bishop Hoggard, who provided many of the newspaper clippings related to these incidents. Lord knows why she has found my family so interesting, but I am indebted to her research prowess and the gift of her time.
Cathy Eads, of Atlanta, Ga., describes her awakening to the racial inequities that remain endemic in U.S. society. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
I was blind, but now I see.
As Black History Month 2021 comes to a close, I’m also marking nearly a year of much more time, and need, for mulling over the human condition. So, I’ve been reflecting on the evolution of my awareness of racism. I grew up a cis white female in central Kentucky. I went to a very small elementary school with zero Black students and a high school of 800 kids with around 15-20 Black students. I had much more experience with the Huxtable family, Sanford and Son, and the Jeffersons than I did with real Black people. It would be generous to describe my view of the Black experience and racial inequity as narrow.
When 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, the scales fell from my eyes. At the time, my second son, a white boy, and his close friend and neighbor, a Black boy, were 12. It struck me suddenly that my son’s friend, my kind neighbors’ child, could have easily been killed in cold blood for walking around at night in a hoodie, just like Trayvon. This fact made me sick to my stomach, and it readjusted my understanding of racism. I hadn’t fully realized until then how a person’s Blackness still made him or her a target, and how a person’s whiteness gave him or her protection.
That day I started to understand the concept of white privilege. I realized I had never felt the need to have a talk with my sons about how to act around police in order to save their lives during a traffic stop, or anywhere else. I never had to tell them to keep their hands out of their pockets when in a store, and to make sure they got a receipt, and a bag, at the checkout. I never feared that when they went out at night with friends, they might be shot and never come home. I felt guilty and embarrassed by my depth of ignorance around racial issues.
In the last few years, I’ve learned more about the history of policing, cash bail, and mass incarceration. I’ve read the statistics on Black women’s health and rates of Black maternal death. I’ve watched the reports of how the coronavirus has stolen a disproportionate number of Black lives. I’ve heard the stories of racially motivated voter suppression laws, the higher rates of toxic pollution present near neighborhoods populated mostly by people of color, the racial bias in education and testing, and systemic racism that permeates nearly every institution throughout the United States and weaves its threads throughout our culture.
I used to claim, “I’m not racist.” Now I know this: it’s impossible to escape the effects of racist ideas in a society that was built on racism and has laws that support racist policies still today. I believe it’s time we all consider getting on board with the Avenue Q song and just admit it—“Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” because we have grown up in a deeply racist society.
Ibram X. Kendi explains that the only way out of this quagmire is to become antiracist. It’s not enough to try to be “not racist.” If people want to bring about changes that promote equity, we have to actively work to become antiracist individuals. From that place, we can work to bring about antiracist policies. His book How To Be An Antiracist has helped me see even more of my blind spots and learn how to overcome them, along with ways our communities, organizations, and laws can become antiracist. He shares stories of his lived experience along with the history of race as a social construct created to achieve a sense of supremacy and privilege for some people, and to strip it from others.
Regardless of our physical characteristics and beliefs, I am certain that until all of us feel safe, cared for, respected, and valued, none of us truly are. Working at becoming antiracist is one step I can take toward promoting a more secure existence. I still have much to learn.
And so he has been acquitted, as we all anticipated. His loyalists never abandoned him, not really, even if some publicly wavered moments after he put their lives at risk. Because of that undying fealty, and despite what some pundits are saying, I fully believe he will run again. Why wouldn’t he? He craves the white-hot heat of that spotlight in the political crucible. He will crush all comers.
As I watched the brilliant impeachment managers present their evidence last week, I alternated between traumatized, tearful, and comforted. Comforted because I realized how much I needed someone to confirm that this has all been real. I needed to see the horrors of his presidency presented in a cogent and organized way. Seeing the chaos neatly packaged helped me breathe again.
It wasn’t just a terrifying, perpetual nightmare. Others saw it, too. Around the world, they were watching.
I wish I could believe it is over. But his chilling words on Saturday tell us otherwise: “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”
We are all exhausted, and I intend to heed our duly elected President’s calls to move on. But we must remain vigilant. We cannot allow our hope and our relief to blind us to the anger and the violence of Trump’s toxic brew. We watched it boil over on January 6. He will turn up the heat again.
Back in December, in the awful year of our Lord 2020, I happened to flip on a news program just as author Salman Rushdie pronounced, “Lies are a way of obscuring the truth. Fiction is a way of revealing the truth.”
Having taken numerous classes and read many books on fiction writing in recent years, this concept was not novel to me. (Sorry…) Nor is it original to Rushdie, of course. Writers Albert Camus and Jessamyn West, for example, famously used nearly the same words to relay the same idea.
But I hurriedly scribbled the words on a pad of paper that I’ve learned to keep in front of the TV—my oracle for inerrant wisdom—and they’ve rolled around in my consciousness ever since.
This week our nation will be subjected to yet another impeachment trial of Former President Donald J. Trump (or “the 45th President Donald J. Trump,” as he evidently prefers to be addressed). He is in this predicament once again because of his lies. He lied about the fairness of the election before the election, and he lied about the results of the election afterwards. He also pressed other people, such as Georgia election officials, to lie for him. Many, many people believed his lies, and, ultimately, his lies led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. People died, and other people’s lives were threatened.
Trump obviously felt it was to his advantage to “obscure the truth.” If he is not convicted, if he never faces any further accountability for his lies or the damage they caused, what deterrents will there be for other elected officials not to lie to further their agenda? Or to cry “Fraud!” every time they lose an election?
In fact, our country seems to be so awash in lies that I’m not sure how we ever find our way back to the truth. Perhaps that’s why Rushdie’s comments have stayed with me.
Some of the most powerful—or memorable—fiction tells the stories of ordinary people who find themselves in horrific situations: war, poverty, imprisonment, abuse, persecution, pandemics, social or political upheaval. It’s by temporarily inhabiting these fictional characters, seeing their world through their eyes and ears and emotions, that we can begin to understand their truth. It’s not until we actually feel ourselves in that battle or in that degrading circumstance, or we feel that hunger or those taunts or that pain, that we begin to fully grasp their reality.
It may seem odd at first to think that a made-up story taking place in a made-up world is where we may logically find the most truth. But perhaps that imaginary incarnation permits greater honesty. Or perhaps it helps remove our own prejudices so we can see things more clearly.
Which leads me to ask: Will we have to wait until some great works of imagination are written about these dark days—these days spent watching our democracy teeter on the brink—before we are able to fully untangle all the lies? Or can a nation of disparate peoples with disparate experiences and viewpoints finally, through sheer will, recognize a common truth so we can heal this country?
This week the impeachment managers will carefully present all of the facts they have collected, drawing the clearest picture they can to support their contention that the former president incited the insurrection. But can they “reveal the truth” in a way that the majority of our citizens, let alone two-thirds of the Senate, will accept it?
We’ve already seen most of the evidence. Many of us watched it play out in real time. But, still, we don’t agree on the appropriate response. The truth remains elusive. Fiction may be our last hope.