Oh, the James Frey Fracas Continues…
It has been a supreme act of self-discipline on my part not to spend much of my working day reading about James Frey. I hate that guy so much. And he is such an addict! He still doesn’t appear to really, truly understand how his distortions of the truth were unethical. His answers still attempt to save some face, to make other’s recollections possibly incorrect as well, to salvage some of his reputation. It reads false, STILL. I don’t believe this has chastened him or made him change his behavior. My instinct is that he is predominantly thinking: shit! I wish they’d never have found out. I got screwed!
I think people who adhere to truth, no matter how painful, boring, or un-beneficial to themselves, are those people that I admire the most. And in some ways I’m so GLAD all this happened because this is what my book is all about. Finding a method for exacting truth or as close as possible to what we can agree truth is, and then going with it. This is basically the opposite of what I was taught by my family and by the church. What I was taught was: look, it makes you feel better to believe such and such, so just go ahead!
Oprah did a good thing to have the show denouncing him, but she did this only when she basically had no other choice. Her knee jerk reaction was not only to defend him (which really means she’s defending her very public support of him) but also, to call in to Larry King about it – to come to Frey’s defense. Only when it all spun out of her control did she jump on the bandwagon condemning his assertions.
But still, even though there was still self-interest on Oprah’s part for admonishing him to his face with all those reporters, etc. I am glad she did this. It made me like her even more. And I really hope this experience ends up meaning something to her. About how important truth is, in general. Not just at how meticulously researched memoirs are for accuracy.
I didn’t even speak to my mother about this until today. Of course she defends Frey. She says he only lied a couple of times and she feels bad for him. OF COURSE. Because truth is not a value for her. Now, that sounds awful, but I think she would agree with me. She often says: if it makes me feel better, I’ll believe it. And I will offer my usual disclaimer here: I love my mother deeply and we get along well in spite of this difference between us. But it is a fact that truth was constantly suppressed in our home in favor of what might be more appealing or less inflammatory or convenient or comforting. And I think it’s had detrimental effects.
Of course this is exactly what the Catholic Church taught me too. Look the other way, don’t look too closely: see how comforted people are by this lie we tell them. And then people train themselves to devalue truth. They say truth is relative and that what people believe is true, IS true. It lulls people into this P.C. slackness that means they don’t offend anyone and that reality is just in the mind of the beholder. ARGH. The worst sin of all is that the Church lies about death and life. It encourages people to do things for a later reward that they full well know isn’t coming to them.
The thing I am grappling with is that I think my mother may actually be happier than I am. And I’m pretty happy – don’t get me wrong. But this policy of believing what is convenient or comforting seems to work from a happiness quotient. That’s what KILLS ME. But I have traded that comfort for authenticity. And when I am deeply happy, I feel I am happy for reasons that are as close to truth as I can decipher. And those moments of deep happiness are worth seeing all the horror of reality or feeling very depressed, often, about what’s happening in our world or even in my own life. Plus, what is more important to me, even more than happiness, is purposefulness and meaning.
The Catholic Church in Spokane, the Spokane Diocese, is flooded with lawsuits right now about priests abusing young children. The diocese may even go bankrupt over it. I mean, I have my own problems with this happening – because I know memory is so unreliable and it’s hard -- it’s a difficult problem of our penal system – when there are no witnesses besides the people involved. But still, my mother’s comment about it all was: What I have to say to those people who are suing the priests is this: get over it. Lots of bad things happen to kids. They get over it.
That’s what my mother wishes she could say to those people.
And believe me, I have a lot of “just get over it” inside me. Twenty years ago or so I was kidnapped for several hours and beaten up and – well anyway, I went to a Victim’s Group Therapy for women afterwards for people who had been abducted. And that’s what I thought too: get over it. These people were redefining themselves because of this one unfortunate crime. So, in that sense, I understand where my mother is coming from.
On the other hand, it’s another example of a knee jerk reaction to side with authority and suppress the truth. And that’s just what Bush is doing, that’s just what the Catholic Church is doing, that’s just the same mindset that allows Frey to write what he feels like writing without a flinch – with no deep wrestling inside him over what is true and what isn’t.
It really gets me riled up.