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April 15, 2008

Senator Obama, lie to me. I can't handle the truth.

By Ed Tubbs

I'm discouraged that when an aspirant to the presidency of my country speaks with me honestly, when he speaks to me out of respect for what I may be feeling, and when he's mocked, ridiculed, chided for that honesty, more and more and more I'm convinced that Colonel Jessep was exactly right: we can't handle the truth! Bring on the clowns. They're what we seem to want.



Despite the rampant excoriations from the Right, Hollywood has made the world richer beyond our wildest dreams, for many of our most vivid dreams and recollected lines were concocted in Hollywood sets. Just a few, to set the point:

Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler to Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”


Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine to Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lunde: “Here’s looking at you kid.”


Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan to the just-downed baddy: “I know what you're thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky?....Well, do ya punk?”


I know what you’re thinking, “Okay, okay, point made already.” But that’s not my point. My point is entirely to Senator Barack Obama and the most of us that compose the American electorate. To introduce my point I’m going to rely on one more Hollywood line.

Marine Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson): You want answers?
Navy Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I'm entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep, from the witness stand, screaming back at Kaffee: You can't handle the truth!

      Few know me, and of those who do will say, “Ed Tubbs is an ornery cuss: He’s a challenge who’s always challenging someone; doesn’t take anyone’s pronouncement as factual without either knowing the issuer of those statements is making them from genuine authority, or he demands attribution he can check himself. And he will check. Count on it. Be prepared with sources, or be quiet.”


Ten days or so following high school graduation, I enlisted in the US Army. I was not going to be anyone’s good son; do what you’re told, believe what you’re told, and don’t ask questions. If anyone was going to order me to do something, it would be because I delivered to them that authority, not by any happenstance of birth.


Ya know, New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live free, or die.”  Those four simple words sum to me what it is to be an American. It’s patriotism. In 1776 a handful of fools screamed at King George: “F*** Y** A******!


Senator Obama — along with his wife, Michelle — has recently found himself in some troubled political water because he was foolish enough to be composed of the temerity and the confidence to presume that Americans could handle a dose of truth. He opined that average Americans were bitter because they felt Washington wasn’t listening to them, and thus couldn’t hear them. He suggested they were clinging to their guns and to their religion for some element of assurance during these times of cynicism that draws its potency from rabid uncertainty.


In 1964, while stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, against the army’s recommendation that Yankees, which, as a product of the Detroit suburbs, I most assuredly was one, I crossed the Chattahoochee River into Phoenix City, Alabama. I’d never seen public drinking fountains and restroom facilities labeled “coloreds only” and “whites only.” And the “coloreds only” didn’t look like anything you’d ask your dog to use.


Burn this G****** place down! shot like hot lightening through my heart and soul. You don’t tell me or anyone  where I can drink and where I can crap. I drink and I crap where I decide I want to drink and crap. Just who the f*** do you think you are?  


In 1968, as Newark and LA and Detroit were ablaze, I understood. Understanding is not necessarily agreeing with the behavior. But then, we have long been schooled to admire the egregious vandalism perpetrated by “patriots” in Boston harbor in 1773. Point is, you reach a point. Every human does. The French reached theirs July 14th, 1789. Every human eventually feels that enough has been tolerated much too long. Anger. Fear. Bitterness. Unless you were Caucasian, and even for many poor Caucasian souls, you had justification oozing out your pores to feel anger, fear, bitterness. Those and more are all human truths.


This most glorious nation, the United States of America, was built on those most basic of human emotions. Hope itself is dependent on them, is in fact a product of them, and does not exist in their absence. If all (an absolute that, by definition, excludes any proportion less than 100%) is going great, if everything is wonderful, what more is there to hope for? It’s only when the circumstance is bleak, when there is the fear that things could get worse, become more intolerable, that hope emerges. 


This very moment, across the land, from “sea to shining sea,” the circumstances for hundreds of millions are such that feeling discouraged, feeling despair, feeling cynical, feeling bitter are there. Simply because you may not be feeling that way in no way is a legitimate reason to suggest that others ought not to. You may not be in their shoes.


Folks don’t live their lives vicariously. That a few are thriving does not feed my kids, or get them medical attention when they’re sick, or put decent clothes on their backs. That a few are thriving doesn’t put a single forkful of food in my mouth, or provide me with medical attention if I need it, or help me resole a shoe with a hole in it.


So, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” how great things may be for you, unless they’re at least tolerable for me. If I’m homeless, or I’m facing the probability I may become homeless, don’t expect that I will care one damn bit if your hillside estate is burning to the ground. Don’t tell me your troubles unless you’re truly willing to accept that I’ve got a few that are every bit as serious. And, by the way, if you’re some hedge-fund manager or corporate exec who has lost a hundred grand or a million recently . . . Hey! At least you had your shot. Maybe I never had one, or I’m afraid that shot is slipping through my fingers, and all I had was hope, and maybe now that’s an ethereal commodity I just don’t have like I used to. You been to the store lately? Three and four plus bucks for a loaf of bread. Milk; same thing. Meat and fish . . . Saw a green pepper yesterday; a buck for one. Green beans nearly two bucks a pound. And gas; $3.859, and I can see five bucks just around the corner, and I’m scared. My income is still at the buck and a half or two for a loaf of bread level. So maybe yeah, I’m scared, and bitter that that’s mostly what I’ve got.


And I’m also discouraged that when an aspirant to the presidency of my country speaks with me honestly, when he speaks to me out of respect for what I may be feeling, and when he’s mocked, ridiculed, chided for that honesty, more and more and more I’m convinced that Colonel Jessep was exactly right: we can’t handle the truth!


Bring on the clowns. They’re what we seem to want.

— Ed Tubbs   

Authors Bio:
An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."