"How old am I tonight?" our older daughter Kate asked, laughing, as we walked into a cocktail party of some old - some new friends. "Well, let's see..." I said, laughing right back, how 'bout you cut off about three years. Whattaya think?" Here's the thing, I didn't want to be "old" enough to have a daughter of a "certain age," if you know what I mean. Ridiculous, right? Of course! But I did the same thing when I was a young teenager and I wanted to appeal to my older brother's friends. So I'd add about two years to my age (from thirteen to fifteen..) hoping to seem more, uh, sophisticated. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Trouble was, I couldn't always remember how old I said I was...
But that's not all, when I was first dating Jim (my husband) a young Peace Corps "graduate," newsman and very cool guy - and wanted to impress him with my compassionate idealism, I told him I'd "sat in" at a lunch counter in Lynchburg, Virginia near where I went to college. But I didn't. One of my best friends (an activist ahead of her time) did. I told him the truth eventually...like three years ago."I still like you," he said... Hey, after thirty - or whatever - years (I don't remember how long we've been married, either, or maybe it's just that I don't remember how long I've said I've been married...) one forgives - not to mention, forgets. "I wonder what else she's 'fudged,'" you might be thinking..
Stories are wonderful. They make life worth living. A heroine of the French Resistance in Scott Turow’s novel about WWII, “Ordinary Heroes,” said, “In the end, we are nothing more or less than the stories we make up about ourselves...and believe.” And my little “stories” are completely insignificant in the greater scheme of well, just about anything. I’m not running for office. I’m not bending or recasting or rewriting actual events that could have actual consequences... an art that’s being perfected by some who are running for office. And that’s alarming. Serious stuff is at stake. We live in an incredibly dangerous world. “Convenient untruths" can get boyfriends. They can get votes, too. They can even move a stock market. And they can start wars.
“Fact-checking" has become such an integral part of this current presidential race that President Obama gave a shout out to the growing group of “truth-seekers” after Romney trotted out his well-worn line about Obama’s 2009 “apology tour.” He said, “Every fact-checker and every reporter who has looked at it, governor, has sad this is not true.” Actually, the fact-checkers labeled it, “pants on fire.” Of course, the fact-checkers have brought Obama up short, too. When he stated that Romney “said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day,” they pronounced it “half true.” (I love the labels: “mostly true,” “mostly false,” “half true,” “half false,” and the killer, “pants on fire.” ) But just imagine, we now need teams of independent “checkers” to be able to accurately judge a candidate’s veracity! And even with their help, it’s hard. Because if a statement, however false, is repeated often enough, and the storyteller’s “act” is compelling and convincing, we start to believe it. And so does the storyteller... And that’s a fine kettle of fish, as my grandfather would say... So we have to think twice. Or three times. Or more.. And perhaps, when we’re standing alone in the voting booth, we have to put aside the fiery rhetoric, the well-rehearsed act - and trust our instincts to know whom we can believe. Because “buying a pig in a poke” (another of my grandfather’s sayings) can have unintended - and even dire consequences..
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