Truthiness

January 14, 2007 by susan

Don't be misled. It's not about memoir.

by susan
I spent the past two days in a memoir-writing workshop, discussing such things as finding a voice, narrowing the scope, dealing with relatives who will be hurt, angry or litigious and of course, the truth. Three people growing up in the same house at the same time will have three very different versions of what went on there. Whose truth are we telling? What is reality?

So when I flipped through the Sunday morning yak shows it was no surprise that I heard so many versions of truth. Trouble is, as we concluded in memoir 101, there is a whale of a difference between making up dialogue that conveys the emotional tenor of a long-ago moment -- the truth as best we can recall it -- and making up a whole scenario that never happened to further our own cause, in order to cast ourselves in a better (or worse, as if often the case in memoir today) light.

And we all know which sort of truthiness our "not embattled" administration has been toying with for -- oh, about six years, more if you count the "I don't believe in nation-building" campaign that brought us this compassionate conservative. What we wouldn't give for a little manufactured dialogue -- with whole sentences, for starters.

But this morning we saw Senators McCain and Leiberman, both of them party mavericks of an icky sort, but not necessarily liars -- at least when it comes to the Surge. Their truth seems born of delusion, seeing the story through a prism of their choosing. McCain say that this is our last chance, "and it's a slim chance," for "success" in Iraq, vs. staying the current course or withdrawing troops, both of which would be a "catastrophe." (As opposed to what it is now?) Lieberman parroted much of the same. I couldn't bear to watch him so I don't know.

Let's see, we have a slim-to-nothing chance of avoiding catastrophe and two scenarios for guaranteed catastrophe, and none of the president's other stradgies has been based on truth or achieved success, even though we were assured each time that he had it right, but we're to believe in this one? (But hey, he's taken responsibility for that, in case you missed it, in his eye-blink of a mea culpa in the library surge speech.) And if it doesn't work, as McCain and Lieberman somberly told us it may not, what's the next plan? Or do we wait til January '09 for that?

As Sen. Chuck Hagel, looking like a giant among men these days, said later in the show, or maybe another one, I forget, "talk about a disconnect."

Then there's the other sort of truth distortion, the kind caused not by delusion but by a need for a distraction, or when covering one's ass. It's practiced most frequently by Vice-Carbuncle Cheney, now that Rummy's skiing in Aspen, and the handful of toadies -- led by toady-in-chief Tony Snow -- still defending this imperious president.

Tony Snow, perhaps the most unlikable of press secretaries in memory, did the classic distortion-for-distraction thing by turning an exchange between Barbara Boxer and Condi Rice into a cat fight that "dealt a blow to feminism." Give me a break. The moment passed without a murmur in the hearing room, but later Snow trotted it out as an insult to Condi's choice not to have children. If you watch Boxer's question, her point is obviously that people who do not have children in the war have a responsibility to consider those who do, especially before sending 20,000 more of them into big muddy. Right-wing bloggers and the gasbag known as Limbaugh picked it up and ran with it, injecting racism and patriotism into the mix as well.

So no surprise today that the simpering Chris Wallace on Fox brought it up to the Vice-Carbuncle, who could only shake his head with disgust at how low Ms. Boxer would sink. Of course he's on thin ice these days when it come to matters of choices in child bearing, so he appeared to bite his (forked) tongue. Sen. McCain, however, over on some other show, weighed in that it was inappropriate for Sen. Boxer to question Ms. Rice's patriotism. Oooh, nailed her. But wait a minute, is this about feminism or patriotism or the escalation of an immoral war? See how easy that was? Snow's diversion did the trick.

Then there's the total fabrication of your own truth for your own gain. Over and over, the Dems, most notably Sen. Obama (and not the mysteriously absent Hillary) patiently put forth a plan including withdrawal and redeployment to the borders, limited advisory support for the Iraqi army, a surge of region-wide diplomacy, a kick in the butt to Maliki to find political solutions , and variations on that theme. They embraced the almost forgotten mother-of-all-plans, the Iraq Study Group's plan, which the president dropped like used kleenex. But, we are told over and over by all (three) Surge supporters, "The Democrats have no plan."

A hallmark of this administration has been a belief that if you keep saying something it becomes true. Or at least the people will believe it's true. And, to the American people's everlasting shame, it worked. At least on about half of them. (Okay, I know, we was robbed. But it shouldn't have even been close.)

Well, if you're writing memoir you should "tell the truth, but tell it slant" as Emily Dickinson advised, but you cannot invent your own truth. If that's what you want to do, then have the intellect to know the difference and the decency to call it fiction.

But if you're destroying a nation (or several) and sending other people's children into a win-less war, the choice between truth and fiction is not yours to make.

##
After thought. Isn't it funny ha-ha-ha how quickly the media exposed James Frey's Million Little Pieces to be a lie, while the president blew up Iraq into a million little piece and they still are reluctant to call it all a lie?

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