Uncomfortable Truths


No, no, look away. Find something else to read or do. Trust me, you don’t want this. I’m serious. This is for me. I can’t stop you from looking over my shoulder, of course, but you’re going to be sorry that you did.


If I have learned anything over the course of my life, it’s that none of us can handle the truth, not day in and day out. I don’t need Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup shouting at me to get that. I’m not even talking about Truth. I mean truth with a lower-case ‘t’. I mean the little truths.


  • The hard-to-deny and therefore irritating observation that your friend makes sotto voce.
  • The fragment of reality that slips into your own private Fantasyland, through a tiny crack in your Wall of Denial.
  • The Elephant in the Room that some witless (but honest, you have to admit) person insists on drawing everyone’s attention to.
  • The pointy fact or datum that punctures the overinflated balloon called Conventional Wisdom.
  • The awkwardly revealing question that someone asks, causing everyone to look down with intense embarrassment for and/or anger at the poor schmuck, who clearly does not understand Rule Number One. Namely, you have the option of taking the red pill and exiting the Matrix. But that does not mean you have the right to ruin it for the rest of us. We’ve chosen the blue pill, and it’s our right to live comfortably with our self- and mass-delusions.



So, I warned you. Here are five uncomfortable truths, just for starters. A crazy hodgepodge, to be sure, but this blog is a window onto my brain, remember, for which that phrase “passionately weird” is entirely apt. Or at least the “weird” part.


  1. The state of our national and state politics, which can be charitably described as utterly abysmal, is a perfect reflection of our own incompetence, indifference, and ignorance as citizens. We get the politics we deserve. But go ahead, rant if it makes you feel better. I’ll put my headphones on.
  2. The so-called humanities (to wit, English, history, languages, philosophy, religion, classics, art, music, etc.) cannot be successfully championed  on the ground that they awaken our souls. That they make us “care about the things that essentially make us human: empathy, creativity and beauty.” Empathy? What country has done more than any other to create our modern versions of the humanities? And what nation in the last century bears responsibility for two cataclysmic world wars, for genocide, for coldly dispassionate evil on such a scale that it will never be fully comprehended? Hint: the answer to these two questions is the same. No, it won’t do. Deep study of the humanities — the following example will seem trivial in comparison to the preceding — did not prevent this from happening at my beloved University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. (Which is not to say that I don’t have my own argument for study and appreciation of the humanities.)
  3. Yes, it may be at least partly true that “our medical system has become dysfunctional.” But see my #1. Much of the blame for this we can lay at our own feet. Provided, of course, that we can bend over far enough to put it there. What do we want? Honestly, we want to do as we please, more or less, and then have someone else fix the problems that naturally ensue. If I were a doctor, I doubt that I would be half as caring, patient, and committed as my doctors have been. So here’s a simple suggestion that will cost you nothing: the next time you seek medical care, start by asking what kind of day the doctor or nurse is having. The unrelenting “me, me, me” of us patients has to be corrosive to morale.
  4. There is no longer any persuasive rationale for single-six education, at least not in higher education. An uncomfortable truth, dear Agnes, which has no bearing on my affection for you and gratitude for many happy memories.
  5. Active religious intolerance, à la the business owner who discriminates among his employees and/or customers by asserting a right to religious freedom, is just that: an intolerance which has nothing to do with freedom. Go to church and do there as you please. That’s where you are and should be free. But when you come into our public sphere, you don’t get to make up your own laws. Abandon equality before the law — this may make you squirm, but there it is — and you will truly, eventually, inevitably lose the very freedoms that you are now claiming as a pretext for intolerance.


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