A Story Of Change

Posted by Judith Gayle


Truth isn’t what it used to be in America and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. For a very long time, our narratives about who and what we are have been two-dimensional, much of it fantasy and nationalistic mythology, played out on a 3D screen. Now truth has become something more than just stories we tell ourselves, they’re becoming something to inhabit.

By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

I think we’d better admit the obvious: truth isn’t what it used to be in America and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. For a very long time, our narratives about who and what we are have been two-dimensional, much of it fantasy and nationalistic mythology, played out on a 3D screen. Now truth has become something more than just stories we tell ourselves, it’s becoming something to inhabit.


With everything speeded up, with so much coming up to meet the air and light, we’re moving into a fuller discussion, headed (hopefully) for 5D — a different way of seeing the whole of us — at a quickening clip, but we continue to hit the speed bumps, for sure.

We’re trying to navigate our way through this chaotic chapter of our becoming — stumbling over suspicious Pinocchios (with every political story Brian Williams ever personally inserted himself into) when we’d do better kicking over the walls of truthiness (examining every story, personal OR political, that George W., Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney ever told) — to knock at the gates of the corporate-owned infotainment industry that sells us the nightly news it wants us to hear.

Oh, I know. “Lyin’ Brian” might not have met the Pope or shared his Wheat Thins with a Navy Seal out in the desert. He’s lost credibility, income and respect for embellishing his personal narrative to make himself look a bit more heroic. Perhaps we should admit how human that is, how many of us have done the same — and while we’re at it, let’s agree that George W. really did run away from his duties in the National Guard, John McCain evidently did spill his guts to the Cong and St. Ronnie the Reagan actually never left the U.S. of A. during the Second World War, which means he didn’t liberate any death camps.

Two of those mentioned are honored as past presidents and one is respected for his military sacrifice, all fibs, exaggerations, outright lies and cover-ups long behind them. That first guy, though, the one we like so much that we’re greatly disappointed he turned out to be an actual establishment news employee? Williams is in limbo for six-plus months, maybe more. A pundit suggested that he and Stewart might switch jobs, both equally up to the task. NBC said they’d happily have Jon, whose lack of response was decline enough. Williams? I suspect he’s still in shock.

There’s something wrong with the picture, though. In a similar political arena, Rand Paul continues to mention his degree in biology, when in fact he didn’t finish college or earn a degree. He was evidently able to enter medical school without one, so his continuing “off-hand comments” are the kind of short-cut in truth-telling that earns him three Pinocchios from The Washington Post (and a slew of unanswered questions that could fall like a ton of bricks on a presidential candidate — or not, if nobody sends up a flare.) So why aren’t we buzzing about Lyin’ Rand?

Is the lesson here that all lies are not created equally? Williams, as the charming, likeable newscaster squandered our trust and hurt our feelings, but Paul, too complex to define as merely Libertarian, is still too much of an outlier to have earned our ire? Or perhaps this is that moment when we look at how we just don’t pay much attention to these things until some bulldog somewhere attaches to the seat of their pants, and then we all pile on.

Does Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal’s hacked e-mails make her less fictional and more human, or do they prove her to be occasionally insensitive and bitch-slap funny, hence ‘fire-able?’ She has endeared herself to some by admitting that there was some relief in having been knocked off her powerful perch, and advises that we should tell people to their face what we honestly think — although I can’t picture her telling Angelina Jolie that she’s a talentless brat without dire provocation. But who knows, maybe she would. She’s weathered this storm pretty well. What’s the ‘female’ for mensch, anyway?

When we talk about being authentic, I wonder how many of us are willing to take that kind of risk. How many of us are, in fact, willing to be that visible, to tell the whole truth? I had reason to love Ruth Bader Ginsberg even more this week when she told on herself, citing the reason she nodded off at Obama’s State of the Union as not being “100% sober.” She pleaded a bit of excellent wine with a good dinner, and it was her own granddaughter that tweeted the world when her head dropped.

RBG has her big-girl panties on. She’s not afraid of the chattering class, but then she’s 81 and has a lifetime job. She’s also signaled — Spoiler Alert! — that the nation is ready to take gay marriage in stride, and she’s come down hard on the conservative justices for their judicial activism, which she believes endangers democracy (although they all seem to remain friends; Scalia was her dinner, hence drinking, companion on the evening of Obama’s SOTU.)

The President caught hell from the right this week (yawn, same overkill outrage for the last six-plus years!) over a YouTube video he made promoting the ACA. He obviously isn’t afraid of this kind of risk, pretty much at ease in his skin. Noting the flap on the right, HuffPost Hill sent their daily comments under the title, “President Uses Selfie Stick; Articles of Impeachment Ready.”

The conservatives demand more dignity from the black fella because what? Because Dubby was a monument to decorum [sic], never goofy, cranky or cringe-worthy? (Do open these links — it will make you feel better about everything, I promise!)

Reading the day’s news gives us the impression that the pendulum is swinging wildly — left and right, back and forth — in front of our very eyes, but it seems to me that the great confusion of opinion IS the news of the day. We’re in the thick of a larger conversation — as yet unresolved — about the really big social issues like police brutality and religious wars, government policies surrounding income inequality and corporate dominance, even as the cultural issues that are used to pit us against one another are beginning to lose their influence.

The truth is just bare bones facts buts the story we tell ourselves about them shapes the change we’re after. Today lying is the story, and it’s a good one to examine because we’ve not been very good at sorting out lies. We need to develop an ear for what’s truthful and what isn’t.

It would be productive if the political parties could find some commonality, but that’s still in limbo with Republicans doing everything they can to poison the well on net neutrality, and refusing a ‘clean’ Homeland Security funding bill that would allow Obama’s immigration plan to proceed. Still, as we ready ourselves to lose Jon Stewart as Fact-Checker-In-Chief, we seem to have developed a bit of talent at finding and redefining the core issues ourselves.

This week the Director of the FBI, James Comey, responded to racism within the police force with unexpected candor. In a pitch to encourage an accurate body count of those that the police kill nation-wide — not reported, at this point — Comey urged law enforcement to overcome lazy thinking and subconscious bias. In short, he encouraged (without naming it) empathy, the same attribute Obama took fire over when he discussed his decision-making process in picking Sotomayor for SCOTUS:

We must better understand the people we serve and protect — by trying to know, deep in our gut, what it feels like to be a law-abiding young black man walking on the street and encountering law enforcement, we must understand how that young man may see us. We must resist the lazy shortcuts of cynicism and approach him with respect and decency.

Credit where it’s due, that was something of a risk for Comey, considering the conservatives’ usual paranoid howl that lawlessness is just around the bend, with those soft on crime soft in the head. But Comey is a ‘Pub, one of their own, so there has been little backlash at this point. Time will tell if this is to be met with a defensive posture, although it appears that the needle may have already moved on this issue — and if that’s so, think how quickly things have changed since the heat of Missouri in August.

I read several articles this week — at least three, one from NYC — indicating that quick-on-the-trigger cops were being charged with some degree of murder. Accountability is suddenly in vogue. Sadly, most of those cops noted in unfortunate killings were rookies, undoubtedly made paranoid by their Gung Ho training and let loose without a restraining hand. It takes time to make change and there are always sacrificial lambs along the way. Let’s hope this change “takes,” for ourselves as well as the lambs on both sides.

Regarding the viability of the culture wars — giving way to gender equality, like it or not — this week a Supreme Court justice in Alabama decided that while SCOTUS may well approve gay marriage for the whole nation, Alabama had no such directive from God. You may remember Justice Roy Moore from a case that made waves back in 2004. He was removed from serving as Alabama’s chief justice when he refused to remove a 5,300-pound monument to the Ten Commandments he’d placed in the rotunda of the judicial building.

Last month, a federal judge found Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. SCOTUS was asked to intervene, and so a hold was placed on counties issuing same-sex licenses. The high court decided to pass on this ruling, with the federal judge giving a green light to licensing but Justice Moore would have none of it. He is in violation of federal law, but refuses to give, acting ‘on principle’.

CNN host Chris Cuomo earned his day’s pay by taking on Moore with an admirable level of candor, including an exhortation that, “Our laws do not come from God, you know that.”

When you take the rules of your religion and you put them on everybody else, that is not what we do in this country. Your definition of marriage is based on your faith, you’ve said it a hundred times, that it is derived from God. That is not how it works here, and you know that. Equal protection applies to all by compromise. And you would even need to have a rational basis for why it would need to be only between a man and a woman, and all you can say is, ‘Because God said so. It’s always been that way.’ That’s not enough.

I’m quite sure there is no argument that will turn Justice Moore’s head, nor that of any of the Klan members who have applauded and backed his regressive stand. I’m quite sure none of them has developed enough compassion and tolerance to note that love itself is patently unable to diminish itself enough to be contained within so limited a concept as the old law has proscribed. It may well have endured that way for centuries, but it can never be trapped there forever, unable to expand itself. I suppose we should celebrate that Alabama is usually last to go, and that’s where we find ourselves now — at the last of it.

In other news, Kayla Mueller, the young U.S. woman killed by ISIS, has been remembered as a tireless volunteer, someone whose idealism had taken her into dangerous places. She was being held hostage in Syria where she’d gone to assist with displaced refugees; Obama’s team had been working on a rescue operation when time ran out. Her work with the Palestinians set the conservative community into a tizzy of celebration when she was killed, tweets and conversation too mean-spirited to repeat.

Those who are so dark are the baggage we drag behind us, slowing us down. We simply cannot allow that kind of behavior to go unaddressed. The human cost is not just to Kayla and her family, or to those who so badly needed her ministrations. The human cost is to those who attempt to diminish what she sacrificed, to that pinpoint of Light they carry that cannot widen when they are lost in the energy of judgment based on fear. The cost is to the whole of us, because we are not energetically divided; each of us is connected to the rest — and we are waiting for those dark ones to join us.

They will not help us help them. We will have to do that for them, with non-violence and love. We can no longer remain an organism at war with itself, and so each of us — adding our piece of the puzzle — must take care not to fall into the trap of hating, fearing, judging. Those of us who have taken a lower path must be lifted up. We must love our way out of hell. We must forgive ourselves and one another.

So here’s the question: in order to take a leap of consciousness — in order to stop the insanity — does the pendulum have to come to rest at some point? Don’t we have to step into one another’s shoes to see where we might find agreement? Don’t we have to stop counting coup on each other? Stop pummeling scapegoats while hiding our own warts from public view?

The competitive model that demands a zero-sum game denies us that intuitive core of compassionate existence we yearn for. Win/win has to be the name of this human game, and until we badly want that win for one another, we remain in competition and strife. We remain the problem, not the necessary answer.

There is much, politically speaking, to remain uncomfortable about (go here and here for necessary reads and activist/ops) along with a lot of cultural confusion, some of it engendered from those very ones who have outgrown the old templates while still searching out the new. Despairing in what we find does not help us help ourselves. Have faith that where we are is exactly where we need to be, and what we’re experiencing is that thing we’re completing in order to take a remarkable leap. It may feel as though we’re crawling along toward needed change in slow-motion, but we’re moving quicker than we think.

Open the links and remember what it was like just a decade ago, how clueless we were, how horrified and frightened of what was to come. Understand that the sorrows were evidently deemed necessary to break the hold of nationalism, of competition and tribal taboos. Even now, as the clashes seem never-ending, remember that we cannot finally put them to bed unless they have exhausted themselves and, evidently, us along with them.

But we are lighter, aren’t we? Recall how much of what we no longer carry was back-bendingly heavy, sucking at our energy and keeping us from necessary risk, with much of that behind us now. Hug yourself for how far you’ve come!

I grant you, most days it seems like chaos reigns, as if there were 7 billion voices around the planet all yelling at once — and there are, actually. A good many of them are not tech-savvy nor engaged in more than the limits of their own little village and are unaware that their energy signal is registering in the collective to sway the whole of civilization. We need to remember that when we despair of how small we are, how limited our influence.

And remember that not all conscious expression is created equally; remember to aim higher in thought, word and deed. One open heart shines like a beacon among many too shuttered to risk loving, to risk authenticity or the audacity of public error or scrutiny — also known as learning, here on planet Terra.

When we live opened to love and its myriad expression, all things are possible. When we love fearlessly and without expectation, blessing follows. And here’s a reminder: all of us are Valentines, this long weekend, because even the scratchiest and most belligerent of us is a part of the larger body known as the Beloved. So offer up a heart-felt Valentine’s Day smile to everyone you meet today and let your Light shine, because what blesses spreads like ripples in a pond to touch us all.

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