Everything's Coming Up Rosen

Emily’s been writing a column, essays, travel stories, profiles, features for over 20 years. Her work is available for syndication and reprint.

REALITY? TRUTH? –Really? Truly?

I was always a big fan of “reality.” My relationship with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy didn’t last very long. Myths, magical realism, religious stories based on fantasy were fun but always overruled by my skepticism and to some extent — distrust.

Having adults tell me lies made me feel like my intellect was being demeaned. How stupid did they think I was to believe that the Prince actually climbed up Rapunzel’s hair to the tower to rescue her?  

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed Mother Goose and Cinderella like most kids, but I was never caught up in the magic of dismissing my belief system. I always took great comfort in what I knew was reality. I relied on truth as the one steady reliable “thing” in life, and if the truth was bad for me, I could handle it because I knew it to be indisputable — and I knew I had to change circumstances and formulate a different truth for myself.

 I  believe that I can speak for many others who dare to think of the ramifications of the crumbling of  the  nature of “truth.” We are living during a period of major societal disruption, and this addition — the loss of reality — seems to be pushing us over the edge.

Surely in political circles, there are very distinct  “realities” — different “truths” held to be equally immutable by each side. Anyone who switches from Fox News to either of the other cable news channels is transported to a completely different reality. The question is: Can society live peaceably within a state of two palpably different realities. I am not talking about two opposing belief systems– this is different. I am talking about viewing  the same set of circumstances  and transmitting different interpretations to the brain.  And this is where my faith in REALITY falters. Perhaps  it (reality) actually doesn’t exist.

And so with these musings in mind, and in recognition that we are again celebrating our most significant national holiday, I transition to the revered words of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence:  “We hold these truths  to be self evident: that all men  ( “men” used in the context of the then secondary status of women as citizens – and Africans and “others” as somewhat less than human)   are created equal,  that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights — that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I look at those words these 243 years later and suppress a groan of incredulity. Those “truths” were self evident???  Those “truths” were acclaimed during all these years as being  sacred to the values of our country and yet how fictitious they were — and how for  two centuries — centuries !!!!  “all men”  were certainly not deemed to have been created as the  “equal” to white-skinned men, by any stretch of the political, social, or economic imagination. And in our blustering “patriotism,” we got away with worshiping those hollow deceitful words.

Perhaps non-white men and women as well as people regarded as “other,” might soon produce a declaration of their own that can be interpreted by ALL as a mirror of truth and reality and can be revered as an “updated” document to which we will be proud to pledge our allegiance. We honor Thomas Jefferson and our “founders” for their political genius and for guiding us in the direction of our not yet perfect union. We can still do better and hopefully will never stop trying. And maybe someday, the larger “truth” to which we all aspire, may be monolithic.

Happy Barbecue -or whatever you do to celebrate our gratitude for an ever striving-to-be-great country.