The velocity of the car pressed my body against the seat with a force that felt impossible to fight. But, still I tried. Every muscle tense—as if working to hold my bones in place.
I could hear his voice over the roar telling me my future—I would stay quiet, because no one would believe me. This vortex of force jolted me into silence with a potent tool: fear. Fear seeped into the ruminations of my teenage mind: fear of shame, fear of being judged, fear of his anger and hostility, and fear of losing my life.
That fast car and those confident words he uttered were paralyzing—and I froze not for a few minutes, but on some level of my existence, for years. And one of the most tenacious forces in my captivity was simple: the fear that people would believe him instead of me.
How could I ever get out from under that smothering reality of his brazen willingness to lie and (what I have come to understand after years of healing work) his bewildering capacity to actually believe that what he was saying was true?
My silence ushered me into a crowded quiet, populated with countless other survivors of sexual violence, with generations of people oppressed by the lies of white supremacy, patriarchy, and heterosexism. My silence kept me separated from all these others. I told myself the biggest lie: that I was all-alone.
It is the same crowded quiet that abusive power has rested its heavy architecture on since humanity began its annihilating habit of domination.
My time in that cavernous quiet changed me. And I found my way back out into the open—a different person, a grown up woman who understands what’s a stake for me. Never again will I believe the lies.
And so, the White House boasting of “alternative facts” does not shock me. I have seen this contorted visage and smelt this same stench before. It is the grotesquery of dominating power that’s been challenged, questioned, threatened.
And it will become more belligerent as the resistance grows. Patriarchy is repulsed by throngs of strong women.
This resolve to abuse power in order to create a revised reality is familiar to many of us. In fact, it should be familiar to all of us as citizens of the United States of America.
Our history books have been revising and “alternating facts” of America’s bloody past for generations. This concealing of abusive streams of power is, by the way, part of what created the conditions for the mind-scrambling spectacle we are witnessing today in our politics. The same brazenness that violated treaties with First Nation tribes and put shackles on the legs, necks, and arms of human beings seized from Africa’s shores, feeds the will to concentrate and protect power and wealth in this country today without regard for the human toll.
No matter how ridiculous the claims of made up reality are there will be those who accept them as gospel truth. And no amount of fact checking or confrontation with data will change the mind that has set its cursor on what and who it chooses to believe.
If this feels untenable to you, imagine for a moment the crushing helplessness someone incarcerated for a crime they didn’t commit might feel. Years in prison, indeed lifetimes in prison, even executions, have proceeded based on those with power choosing to let others be the casualty of the truth they desired.
I write these things not to blunt the power of the indignation of the American public in the face of being lied to so boldly. I write these things to help us fine-tune our resistance.
If I had spent all my energy trying to get the person who sexually assaulted me to admit he was lying, I would probably not be here today. Either he would have ended my life, or I may have ended my own.
The powerful will live on lies as long as the lies are working for them. And those bent on abusing their power will find little compelling about being shamed or chastised for their brazen disregard for the truth. There is a lot at stake for them. And the reality they spin is what they need it to be to hold on to power, wealth, influence, or whatever else the payoff may be.
Here’s the truth that will set us free from any bondage their lies may threaten: our freedom from the ravages of such abusive power will be decisive ONLY if it is collective. Our most potent antidote to dominating power’s bold-faced lies is to give ourselves to the necessity of our solidarity.
Our biggest challenge as a country emerges today from our most distorting lie—individualism.
The truth is: we are tangled up together—the web of lies will have us all caught unless we work together to weave the web ourselves with what we know to be true about humanity. Our vitality, health, and joy come from our connections to each other, not from a zero-sum game of competing self-interests.
Our entangled resistance must go deeper than some feigned common good. We are unique beings and so our needs and perspectives will always vary, and sometimes even conflict. Our rallying cry must be our shared humanity, and how deeply we need each other to cultivate a trustworthy world.
Sharing power is the tool we must seize together. And this tool gives us much more than the capacity to tap into self-interest and compromise. This tool gives us a way to finally clearly see something that has been terribly distorted about us. We are each beings with beautiful potential to gestate and give birth to a revolutionary generosity toward all things. Most human beings have yet to really embrace this truth about ourselves.
We are creative, generative beings. And love nourishes our souls. Domination diminishes us and distorts us. Connection with all that lives and breathes is our truth and it is our life-blood.
We need each other, sisters and brothers of the human race. And we need to build our collective resolve. The truth that sets us ALL free must be the fuel that builds and binds our common resistance to the lies that have long been hell-bent on tearing us apart.
Let’s not expend our best energy trying to set the story straight from the White House. Stay awake to how tenacious their lies will continue to be. But, first and foremost, let’s turn up the volume on the truth we know way down in our bones! Let’s sing the song of our shared liberation, and let it set the cadence of this country’s future. The lies won’t have their way with us if they can’t be heard over our collective chorus of “never again.”
And perhaps the time has come at last for the lies that protect concentrations of wealth to be quieted for good. The consequences of those lies have never been clearer. And there are a lot of us ready to be the midwives of something new being born.