VOL. 131 | NO. 201 | Friday, October 7, 2016
Truth is Hard
BY DAN CONAWAY
AIN’T NO SUCH. We have a charming expression in our family. Back in the 1920s, my wife’s grandfather, Memphis architect George Mahan, took a fishing trip to Reelfoot Lake and brought along a crystal radio. Radio was brand-new and he wanted to see if he could get a signal up there with that rudimentary receiver.
As he sat on the steps of a general store and played with the thing, an old man watched intently from his chair on the porch. As a voice materialized out of thin air, Mr. Mahan explained to his startled witness that the device was a radio and that the voice was coming to them from Memphis. The man stood, listened for a moment, and spit over the porch rail.
“Ain’t no such of a g--damn thing,” he said, and walked inside the store.
Up on the porch, we’re rocked in those chairs by the familiar, surrounded by things we know, comforted by the way things ought to be and the way we imagined they were. The tin signs on the store walls advertise our favorites, our happiness is promised, and although there’s no sign that says it, the way we do things is understood – because we’ve always done it that way. We know the people, we know what we believe, we know what’s what. And we don’t know you.
Fear is up on the porch. Tomorrow is down on the steps.
Fear of change and the unknown is natural, but denying it is a lie. Fear of something or somebody different that would alter the norm or challenge the belief is understandable, but denying it is a lie. Fear of any new reality in favor of any old and imagined alternative is common, but denying it is a lie.
Fear of the truth is the biggest fear. Playing to that fear is the biggest lie.
America is a nation of immigrants. Ain’t. Climate change is real. Spit. Obama is an American. Ain’t. Women are underpaid. Spit. Implicit bias is real. Ain’t. The economy is global. Spit. Clean coal is an oxymoron. Ain’t. And so on.
While all politicians and campaigns lie to some degree, that degree and our willingness to accept it is the difference in presidential candidates. One candidate lied about email and not feeling well, got caught, and released tens of thousands of emails and decades of tax returns. The other candidate lies about virtually everything, gets caught daily, and has released nothing.
In the sad spectacle of the first debate, one candidate cited facts, figures, policies and experience, and was given a hard time for being prepared. The other candidate sniffed, sputtered and cited Rosie O’Donnell and Sean Hannity, and was given credit for the equivalent of not throwing up on his Chinese tie.
That porch at Reelfoot isn’t there anymore. We have to go down the steps into reality and not be led back into some place that doesn’t exist by some demagogue spouting fear.
I’m a Memphian, and truth is hard.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.