It’s not like when somebody microwaves fish at the office or when you open that plastic-ware that’s been in the fridge for five months. This is a smell that sneaks up on you, more like when there’s just a touch of mold in the blankets you left overnight in the washing machine before shoving them in the dryer anyway. It’s subtle, but once you smell it, you can’t un-smell it, and if you’re anything like me, it will drive you bonkers until you do something about it.
While I have a strong sense of smell (my husband might say overdeveloped), it took me long years to learn to smell lies. I’m a trusting soul in a sometimes-terrible world. I used to believe that things were my fault because I was told they were. It fit my distorted self-image fairly well to take the blame, but there were times when even I smelled the proverbial rat, when I knew that I’d done nothing wrong, and the confusion set in because shame told me it was all me, but my nose said wait. Something isn’t quite right here. I smell a lie. And I’m getting better with practice.
Now to the country at large. I taught my children that advertising was a way to manipulate them into buying things they didn’t need. That television in general existed to deliver those ads. Yes, there’s amazing art there, and I’m a huge fan of shows like Game of Thrones and Doctor Who so of course I watch anyway, but I do try for ad-free, knowing that “they” are already charging me for that. So manipulation by TV is nothing new to my olfactory senses. The news, like all television, has always sensationalized to some extent. But I think we can all agree that some of it stinks a lot more than it once did.
In this country, we live with 24/7 news – access to instant angst – and we pay for the pleasure. We pay for the ads, we pay for the streaming, we pay in the loss of health that living with constant stress inevitably brings, and we pay for the vodka or cake (or vodka and cake) that we use to cope with that stress at times. We also pay in the loss of whatever olfactory sense we may have for truth vs lies. Anyone old enough to remember the invention of the word “spin” may get this. While we have some incredible journalists, the people controlling the flow of information are corporations whose sworn goals are profits, not truth. Censorship is back room stuff, behind the scenes. People on “both sides” are fed this fast-food diet of fear, terror really, and blame of otherness, and some odd sense of superiority because we, we’re all told, are the only ones getting the Real Truth.
But let’s face it, sometimes we have to dig through layers of innuendo and flash to get to it, that Real Truth. And sometimes it’s not there at all unless we change the channel. Sometimes the “news” is run by hate groups, sometimes just greed, always targeted with analytics to get to you and your type. We argue over which is real (how easy it is to just yell “fake news” in a crowded theater) and create false equivalencies whenever it suits our world view. Whatever flavor of “truth” we want, we tune in, soak it up, and spit it out on Twitter as absolute fact. Only, many of us can smell the smelly lies as soon as we see them, and wonder why everyone can’t.
It’s perhaps ironic then that because of the lies, because of years and years of them, we’ve been faced with a lot of hard truths in 2017. We are not united states, or even united neighborhoods. Hate is coursing through our (sometimes former) friends and through our discourse. And it’s catching. I’ve caught it and held it, fed it with fear and fury and the helplessness of being forced to watch the people and things I love under attack by forces I can’t begin to control. But I still believe in the power of truth, and the people trying to tell it. It’s out there and we can sniff it out. That means calling out our own “side” sometimes, and standing up for others that do the same when the well-defended vitriol bounces back their way.
Look, I have a point of view about what’s going on. I know how I feel. I stand where I stand, and yes sometimes I let emotions rule over logic, or at least what’s presented as logic. I do not want my country to isolate itself, to turn its back even further on the people I was told we were here to look after. I want my melting pot back, and the belief – not yet true – that we are all equal under the law and in our hearts. But the truth is hate has always been here, and injustice rules the day, quite literally. And at this point, it’s my job, and quite frankly yours too, to point out the lies when you can stand the blow-back, to second-guess what seems too perfect a fit to our pre-conceived ideas of how things are before we post or publish them*, and to always use your nose.
Also, get some rest, take a walk outside, pet an animal, hug someone. There’s truth in that for sure.
* Like I did before adding a false claim above about a news network I detest. Yep, looked that sucker up and Snopes said nah, that’s not how it happened. Delete. Breathe. Keep sniffing.This problem is going to last for a very long time.