There are some folks in Alabama and around the country who believe the stories about Roy Moore molesting teenage girls are “fake news.”
We’ve heard a lot about “fake news” lately. Before we called it fake news, we called it denial.
Remember when the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal first blew up? No? Well let me tell you, there were LOTS of faithful Catholic priests and higher-ups, including Pope Benedict, calling it fake news. Of course while they publicly denied the allegations, privately they worked to protect themselves from lawsuits and prosecution.
I previously worked in social services and have seen denial in many forms. I’ve heard attorneys and social workers who were supposed to be on the side of victims make comments about the child victim either lying or asking for it.
I watched adult women be allowed to resign rather than fired and prosecuted for having inappropriate relationships with incarcerated teenage boys, because to do so would bring scrutiny on the administration. Some of those women went on to work with children in other jobs.
But the most memorable act of denial occurred during a parole hearing at a high security prison. I attended the hearings as a part of my job, and they’re typically boring affairs. The offender is first asked to tell about his crime, then others may speak on why they are for or against granting parole. Sex offenders up for parole come up with some pretty creative ways to describe their crimes. One old man talked about it being an accidental occurrence. The hearing officer asked the old man how it could have been an accident THAT many times. Another guy danced around his crimes by calling it “the incident.”
This particular parole hearing was for a man convicted of molesting a family member under the age of 5. Numerous family members, including the offender’s mother, attended the hearing on his behalf. When the hearing began and the officer asked the offender to describe his crime, the offender stated, “I did it,” at which point his mother jumped up and began screaming at the top of her lungs, “No you did not do it!” The inmate turned around, looked at his mama, and said, “Yes, I did.” Other family members also became agitated. Extra officers were called in and the hearing officer told everyone to either sit down and be quiet or leave.
Denial is a powerful mental process that keeps us from accepting a truth we do not want to see. It’s what keeps neighbors and co-workers from seeing problematic behavior in the guy next door prior to his killing his family and then himself. It’s why so many are quick to accept that trusted news sources are spouting “fake news.”
It’s why Donald Trump can spout the most ridiculous shit on Twitter, and 1/3 of the American population accepts it as OK.
I’ve had my own bouts with denial. Most recently I experienced it when the vet told me of Rumpy’s diagnosis. Same with June Buggie and Bubba. I knew they were dying, but I didn’t want to accept it, until I had to. The gang are due for annual vaccinations but I’ve put it off, as though not going to the vet will ensure they won’t get sick.
Denial is much easier than facing reality. Reality is painful. And it sucks.
Denial is why I’ve muted several people I’m connected with on Facebook. It’s painful to me to read their hate-filled posts about guns, or immigrants, or of anyone who doesn’t blindly support Trump. I know them, and I like them, so it’s easier to deny it’s happening. Besides, I reason, they’re in denial too and won’t listen to any argument against their stance on these subjects.
I hope that one day we as a nation will be ready to collectively face some hard truths about ourselves. But many of us are still rehashing the 2016 election. And it’s been over 150 years since the Civil War ended yet we still haven’t come to grips with the truth about that either.
Until we are ready to face the hard truths, we will continue to suffer from not acting in our collective best interest. Instead we will act in the best interest of those who exploit our denial.