Rain falls in the night. The cats press at the window screen, curious, wakeful in their quiet way.
In this post-midnight hour, I close my library book about Trump and deceit — how language is both truth and weapon. From the stack of books donated to my library, I pull a collection of essays.
While the rain continues to fall lightly — and I think of my thirsty garden drinking, drinking, the trees with their copious roots and the innumerable blades of grass — a domestic black-and-white-and-coffee-colored tiger curls at my feet while I read about a liver transplant.
We are made of the dust of old stars, our grade-school teacher told us; we are made of lives and sediment and the mulch of life. But I was also made of something rescued from the graveyard…. you can’t quite forget the how it felt to lie in the close darkness of that grave; you can’t forget the acrid smell of the earth or the stink of the moldering grave clothes, especially now that you know, as you never did before, that you’re headed back to the grave again, as is everyone, and you know this with a clarity you cherish and despise.
— Richard McCann, The Resurrectionist
I laughed at the utter aptness of the Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2016 – post-truth – but the word (and this time) reminds me of Ernest Hemingway’s famous iceberg theory of writing, his “theory of omission.”
Years ago, when I began writing fiction, I also began reading differently, too, wondering what made terrific dialogue snap, but I also began listening in a very different way, too, and gradually realized our everyday speech often contains variations of lies, intentional or not. Lying by omission slides around in our speech, a somewhat slippery critter.
What’s the story? I sometimes ask my daughters. What’s happening under the surface of our language? Maybe there’s two, three, four stories winding together? Think complexly. Don’t assume.
Perhaps because our political world is so intensely polarized these days, the stories of greed and bigotry and outright desire for power push toward the surface. My suspicion is that this post-truth is apter than I realize, this nearly maniacal intent to create chaos and confusion, to obscure the real threads of the story beneath non sequiturs and outright blaring nonsense. History is one long story of the success of dominance, over and over. Why not chose confusion of speech as the weapon du jour?
Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.
– George Orwell, 1984