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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Lacuna and Other Lies That are Told

So I finally got around to reading The Lacuna and was expectant that it would be a good read.  Sadly, it was not.  The first two-thirds of the book just trudged along and it was tough to stay with it.  Luckily, the last third was quite compelling and more up to speed with what I've experienced with Barbara Kingsolver in the past.  What was most compelling to me about the end of the novel was the light Kingsolver shone on the communist witch hunting that occurred in the late 40's and early 50's in the United States.  She revealed through story the insidious manner in which the public and the government went after people who they deemed suspicious of Anti-American activity.  Throughout her story you could see the ways in which those in power spun yarns against those they were accusing and how easily the public was swayed by compelling yet totally false "evidence"  against those accused.  One quote caught my attention.  "Most of them (those hunting out 'communists' and the general public) don't know what communism is, could not pick it out of a lineup.  They only know what anticommunism is.  The two are practically unrelated."  What strikes me about this quote is how relevant is it for the current rhetoric we face in the US particularly as it relates to socialism and Muslims.  With all due respect, my experience has been that most people who stand against socialism really have no real understanding of what socialism is all about.  They just know that they are against it.  Same with Muslims. Certain aspects of the media and other public outlets have drawn a hard line in the sand equating Muslims with terrorists and people seem more than willing to line up behind this ideology.  It's easier to believe what someone is saying rather than studying things for yourself.  But the problem with that is that much of what is being broadcast on the internet and on television isn't truthful.  This concept carries over into all areas of our lives.  I have become so disillusioned with news sources that I really don't know what to believe about much of anything anymore.  And sorry folks, Fox News is not a good source for truthful news.  It carries one of the most heavy biases in all of television.  When it comes to President Obama, I understand that people don't like his politics but what I don't understand is why people are still wondering if he's a Muslim when he has confessed to being to a Christian.  Why are people still wondering if he was born in the US when his birth certificate has been produced?  Critique his politics.  That's the American way.  But can we leave out the vitriolic rhetoric that often has no basis in truth?
The unscrupulous manner in which the novel revealed how the protagonist ended up in a web of accusation for being a communist was really almost painful to read because it felt too close to reality to be only fiction.  They took the words he had written in a fiction novel about a character that he created and attributed the quote to the author, claiming that these were his personal feelings about the government.  And the manner in which he was questioned hardly allowed for him to elaborate for they forced him into yes or no questions, such as, did you write these words?, which of course, he did, but as part of a character development for someone in a book who lived in Mexico many years ago, not as a personal political statement.
Anyway...the book got me thinking about truth, about why we choose to believe what we choose to believe, how one goes about getting accurate information, why personal attack has to be so much a part of our rhetoric these days, why we vilify certain groups instead of seeking to understand more fully where they are coming from, what we fear and how the media feeds that fear.
So, in the end, for a book I really didn't like, I have to say the last third got my juices pumping.