Truth: A Life-long Appointment
“Truth will always be truth, regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or ignorance.”
~W. Clement Stone
Millions upon millions of people tuned in for the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford last Thursday, as she addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning her allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The event allegedly occurred thirty-six years ago in the cocooned private school community of suburban Maryland on the outskirts of our nation’s capital, the same environment in which I was raised. It is a privileged world where who you know and where you go to school, who you were on the outside, mattered more than who you were on the inside.
Clique over character. Though a generalization, it was my experience, and I tell you now that I am biased to believe that too many privileged boys get girls drunk, take advantage, and brag about it.
I was on the road Thursday and listened to Dr. Ford live on the radio. Granted, I am trained to listen carefully and discern when another speaks their truth. But by her voice alone I believed her. At least 98%; I wanted to watch her body language and add that data to my conclusion.
I returned home in time to watch a few clips on the internet while the committee was on break. Now, I definitely believed her.
And then it was Judge Kavanaugh’s turn to speak.
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
I watched as it unfolded—his indignant anger, the inappropriate counter-questioning and vitriolic assertions of a massive plot against him—and thought one thing clearly by the end: his was the tone and face of an alcoholic (albeit a high-functioning one) whose mask has been ripped off.
His facial expressions reminded me of a wounded animal, cornered, lashing out at anything and anyone. I felt his outrage was about the exposure, the public nakedness, not a false accusation.
I have seen that response, that behaviour before, been witness to the outrage, heard the recriminations, denial and blame, with family members and clients. But never so publicly and with so much riding on the outcome.
Kavanaugh’s unwillingness to demand an FBI investigation or take a polygraph, as Dr. Ford had, coupled with his emotional defensiveness caused me to think, “Me thinks he dost protest too much.”
Bill Cosby, now in prison, denied his accusers vociferously. So did Bill Clinton. So have countless powerful men. Turns out they were all lying.
Yet, we want to believe in those whom we elect or appoint as leaders, whether in business, or government, or a TV show. People want truth.
“The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Michiko Kakutani, has written an elegant, concise and compelling account of how we—humanity as a species, and the civilization it has built, with its cultures and communities, its paradigms and paradoxes—got to a point where alternative truth and fake news may soon undermine the foundations upon which we depend.
Her 2018 book, The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, helped me understand how we got here, and gave me a glimmer of hope that we may find our way back to the light of truth, which, unfortunately, requires we examine the darker, cob-web filled corners of power, privilege and pretend.
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~Buddha
I do not know the truth of what happened on that summer evening back in 1982. I do not know what the FBI investigation will uncover or confirm. My hope is Kavanaugh will not be confirmed; I think we can do better.
I do know truth (and therefore trust) is under attack in the USA and all over the world, and with it, the institutions that depend upon it. The Supreme Court, and the people it serves, deserves Justices who tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help them God.
And I know—from the kind of work I do and the stories I hear—that you cannot out run your past. You cannot cover it up or pretend it away. And it is not unusual at all for sexual assault to go unreported, undiscussed, unforgiven, for thirty years and more. Nor is it unusual for alcoholics to rise of positions of great leadership during those same thirty years before their mask inevitably crumbles.
My apologies for the long post, but truth is a pretty big concept with pretty big consequences, and I feel compelled to at least nibble at it this Sunday afternoon, fresh off a five-day retreat where I watched people tell the truth. I’ve done this for a long time, and I know truth by how I feel in its presence. It always looks and feels the same way, the way Dr. Ford demonstrated during her testimony.
I believe we are in a profound time of cleansing, both individually and collectively. And only truth can cleanse.
Figure it out, face it, forgive it. That’s the path toward wholeness: cleaning out the corners by choice.
Always less painful to shine a light into our own dark corners before someone else does.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” ~James A. Garfield