Conversations with the World 111: Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves (pt. 2 of 2)
“…I believe that democracy is a political enactment of a spiritual idea. The sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us, a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny.”
The practice among some “leaders,” in recent years and months, of intentionally spreading disinformation to achieve political or military objectives has been all but normalized. The absence of ethicality in such a tactic is ignored. One example within the United States has become a constant source of material for late-night comics: it is the power which former U.S. president Donald Trump continues to wield over election deniers despite numerous documented reasons he should not.
[You can read part 1 of this conversation by clicking right here]
Late-night comics like Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, and Steve Colbert do a great job providing humorous relief from the stressful knowledge of very real threats represented by extremist followers of Mr. Trump. On the other hand, the televised findings of the January 6th Committee emphasize repeatedly how little there is to laugh about when examining in-depth evidence which suggests Trump played a more active role in the so-called attempted insurrection against the American government than most Americans wish to believe. Moreover, as evidenced by the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, the desire among election deniers to inflict physical violence upon Trump’s political opponents has not diminished.
Are the comedians and January 6 committee members directing their spoken truths more at Donald Trump’s personal powers of political persuasion? Or that of the American people’s collective ability to protect democratic values? Results from mid-term elections in the U.S., up to this point at the beginning of November, have been mixed enough to indicate many are listening but reaching different conclusions concerning what they hear.
Speaking Truth to Your Individual Power
Individual considerations concerning one’s own power, depending on the solitary soul in question, can result in a range of consequences. Some conclude that without substantial wealth, social influence, or political office: power is something they do not possess. As such, they avoid attempting to speak truth to those who clearly do wield some manner of authoritative might and readily follow questionable leaders without offering much input of their own. When George Benson and Whitney Houston sang their respective versions of Linda Creed’s and Michael Massers song, The Greatest, they may have summed up what many consider their only claim to notable strength: “No matter what they take from me/ they can’t take away my dignity.”
At the far opposite end are: those so convinced of their own capabilities they revel in notions of rulership and control which not only place them above all others, but above any governing laws or regulations. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle of these two extremes––an absolute lack of power or the sole commander of it–– attempting to balance the implications of both. That means those who believe they do not possess any significant measures of power nevertheless encounter situations where they are required to exercise the same. And those who believe they are “all powerful” discover the pain of disillusionment revealing them to be as susceptible to defeats or disciplinary actions as anyone else.
When ordinary American citizens, however, found their lives upended by Infowars host Alex Jones prolonged promotion of the conspiracy theory claiming the 2012 Sandy Hooks massacre was a hoax, they were forced to fight back. Already dealing with the grief of losing loved ones to America’s epidemic of gun violence, reliving the agony in a court room battle against orchestrated guerrilla decontextualization was likely the last thing they ever anticipated. Their painful truth leveraged against the substantial power of Jones’ influence resulted in multiple verdicts, in Texas and Connecticut, totaling just over $1 billion.
Are there any who can afford to ignore their individual ability to make a difference for the better: in such days as when Earth’s mightiest rivers are drying up due to human-driven climate change? When war on different continents destroys entire communities on a daily basis? And when the powerful prey with impunity upon the vulnerabilities and ignorance of those weakened by hunger and despair? Speaking truth to your own power first requires acknowledgement that it exists. Then comes reflections on what it means to exercise it in specific ways––or fail to employ it at all––just when it is needed the most.
Author of Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah
Co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
CATCH UP ON MORE CONVERSATIONS WITH THE WORLD
Pandemics, wars, racism, and climate change have ways of derailing some of our very best stated intentions. Start-ups fail to get started. Planned families get put on hold. Dream vacations remain dreams to be pursued another day.
While my Bright Skylark Literary Productions has taken more than a few unsettling hits of its own this year, I’m grateful for what has been achieved up to this point. Moreover, there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to promising projects still in development.
A Couple of Highlights So Far
Participation in two major offline events played significant roles helping to reconnect with live audiences and patrons after the restrictive distances imposed by COVID-19 for the past two years. The first event was the Authors Day observance held March 27 in Lafayette Square in Savannah, Georgia (USA). The display table showcasing Bright Skylark products was more unique than most participants’ because it not only contained books, but first-print artwork and photography, greeting cards, and collectible giveaways. Copies of every available catalog title sold along with framed visual works. Overall, the day easily qualified as a win-win for all involved.
The second major offline event also took place in Savannah when I accepted an invitation to participate in a celebration of the 25th anniversary of The Moth storytelling organization. Founded by popular bestselling author George Dawes Green, the celebration coincided with the release of Green’s new novel: The Kingdoms of Savannah (presently an Amazon “Editor’s Pick” and sitting in the top 5 best sellers of 3 fiction categories).
What made the occasion especially momentous for me was that it marked my first time, in roughly 14 years, stepping onto a stage as a “raconteur.” Moth storytelling events have become major, and even legendary, cultural happenings wherever they take place, so it was thrilling to share the stage with fellow storytellers: Edgar Oliver, Jon Goode, Opollo Johnson, and Green himself. Further rounding out the evening were several musical performances, including by: internationally renowned jazz vocalist Cynthia Utterbach, Velvet Caravan co-founder Ricardo Ochoa, and virtuoso guitarist Travis Pullman.
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.