Inner Bottom Line ®
Syndicated Column on Personal Choices & Ethical Dilemmas
“We Can’t Handle The Truth!”
April 14, 2006
It’s been over a year since I ended my weekly syndicated newspaper column and we’ve had the chance to visit. Thanks to all for your ongoing interest, loyalty, and support during this time. I am deeply appreciative of all of your messages and while I have not posted any new columns in a public forum, I have happily answered each and every inquiry personally.
During this year, I returned to Los Angeles and began my first of two years as a Screenwriting Fellow at the American Film Institute. It is a thrilling, challenging ride and I have happily not found the need to look back on the past because I am so completely present in today.
However. Given the events of the past few months, even years, I have no choice now but to break my silence. As Howard Beale said in Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.”
When the latest campaign brohahas began, first over Reverend Wright's incendiary remarks and now concerning Barack Obama’s latest statements suggesting that many small-town folk are “bitter” about their lives today, the first thought that ran through my mind was, “you betcha’.” I know, for a fact, that many small town people are more than bitter. Try despondent, depressed, even wounded.
Then my second thought, after cringing from the onslaught of vitriolic attacks led by Senator Clinton and followed by the media, was of the enraged face of Jack Nicholson, staring down Tom Cruise in the courtroom in Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant film A Few Good Men, yelling, “You can’t handle the truth!”
No, Mrs. Clinton, the truth is, you can’t handle the truth. You’ve been illustrating that for years. Nor can most of the media and a good portion of this country’s population.
Believe me, like it or not, Senator Obama is right. I personally know this to be true. I grew up in a tiny town in Pennsylvania.
My town, of which I am deeply proud and for which I have immense affection and admiration, is still, at heart, a small town with small town mentalities and habits. However, it is unlike most of the other towns in the surrounding coal-country area because it is a picturesque and relatively prosperous town; quaint and unusual in comparison to the thousands, even millions, of small towns across Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. Towns that are run down, decaying, clustered alongside abandoned factories, train tracks or two-lane highways, covered in gritty, poverty-laden grime and neglect and lacking in opportunity or hope while barely gasping for life.
To confirm this harsh reality to which Senator Obama alluded, all you have to do is to take a day’s drive down any two-lane highway in this country. It’s right there before your eyes, whether in Pennsylvania, New Mexico or Montana. Throw a dart and then get behind the wheel of your car filled up with $4.00/gallon gas and drive.
A large portion of the disillusioned, weary inhabitants of these towns do cling, sometimes fiercely, to their religion or their guns or both. They also often drown their fears and ennui at the corner bar or in the backs of trucks because most of the ego-building, spirit-enhancing employment, opportunities and riches they once knew have long since vanished.
I feel it only fair at this time to disclose publicly that I support Senator Obama. I have formally supported his candidacy since the day he declared his intention to run. It is the first time I have found myself committed to a candidate since I was old enough to vote in 1964. That’s a long time to wait for someone to come along who exhibits the kind of qualities I believe my country has so desperately needed for too long.
My support of him, however, doesn’t blind me to the occasional mis-steps that have occurred from time to time. As a seasoned public speaker and media guest who has claimed the title of “inventor of foot and mouth disease” for thirty years, I totally comprehend how easily and often statements are taken out of context, come out jumbled or don’t reflect the real intention.
And frankly, after watching in disbelieve as millions of my fellow countrymen elected The Idiot with his inexcusable, embarrassing inability to speak any language, much less English, I must now dare any of those who put Mr. Bush in office to justify their right to criticize anyone else for making a gaff. A third grader could examine Senator Obama’s track record and see that he is not “above” the people.
However, Senator Clinton, in all her disingenuous indignation, is far from spotless. Her reputation for making condescending, elitist and downright nasty remarks is legion. So Mrs. Pot, don’t you go calling the kettle black!
And don’t call Senator Obama an elitist for telling the truth. Or accuse him of being out of touch. Those who are belly-aching the loudest are the ones who “don’t get it.”
“Out of touch,” Mrs. Clinton? You? The woman who stated she would never stay home and bake cookies? The person who claimed to have landed under heavy sniper fire but now hides behind the excuse that it was late and she was tired when she made that statement. Boo-hoo. Puleeze. How lame is that? Besides, you’re not alone in your shrill cries of “foul.” Bill's out there mucking things up. I used to be one of your husband’s most loyal supporters, but his recent, inappropriate, out of touch, and mean-spirited remarks have totally trashed my respect for him during this past year.
Senator Obama has been willing to stand on principle on a number of occasions, even if it cost him. And this latest tempest is temporarily costing him. But while it may result in a few news cycles of distraction from the issues that really do matter to all of us “bitter” Americans who are embarrassed, angered and disappointed by the current state of our country and our damaged place in the world, integrity is not fashioned in media tag lines. Nor can it be whipped up out of a few carefully-crafted media buys.
It is woven over time through the small but meaningful acts and positions that involve being honest rather than telling half-truths. Integrity is at its best when it is courageous enough to hold up a mirror and ask us all, collectively, including the one holding the mirror, to take a long, hard look at where we are and what we’ve truly become – as a person, as a people and as a nation.
Right now, to tell the truth, that picture is not very pretty. But starting with honesty is a good beginning. For a change.
And for that, we owe Senator Obama a heart-felt and deeply respectful thank you.
The Inner Bottom Line ® is a Rising Moon Press™ publication.
Olive has a private practice and writes and gives keynote speeches, corporate retreats and seminars nationally. She is the author of "The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life."™
She is currently back in Los Angeles and a Screenwriting Fellow at AFI.
You can write to Olive directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters are anonymous and confidential.