One of the formative experiences of my life—testifying, as a child, feet away from a home-wrecking pedophile—taught me a great many things. The most important thing it taught me was:
You’ll only be believed if you behave, and speak, exactly right.
Four years ago, I realized I could state what I believed, but that I’d never be believed without cold, hard facts.
Maybe, I contemplated, I’d be believable with them?
I started reading. I read more than a hundred books annually to learn not only the cold, hard facts, but also to learn their contexts: the very specific histories in which they were birthed.
I believed, mistakenly, that this would make me “believable.”
Silly Deb! “Believable” is an ever-moving hurdle placed
to make you keep jumping.
In August 2016, I read my first political book, Glenn Greenwald’s With Liberty and Justice for Some. It described the profoundly, lethally unjust United States I’ve known firsthand since I was decade old—a situation not improved one bit since child-me testified three decades ago.
Since then, I’ve read Greenwald and Klein and Chomsky and Chalmers and Monbiot and Frank and hundreds of single books by hundreds of other authors well and intimately acquainted with some of the many American faces of injustice. I have become informed not only by my own experiences, but by the knowledge of those who have worked, long and hard, to comprehensibly lay out injustice in its particular American contexts.
I can’t stop reading. I now understand, at a level beyond words, how injustice comes to seem so natural while ending so many lives so unnaturally. I understand that its very specific faces change just when you think you understand it, once and for all;
that understanding last year’s forms won’t help you see how it’s adapted this year, or how it’s in the process of adapting for next year.
And I understand: It’s okay for me to stop jumping, trying to become “believable” to others.
The same people who didn’t think I was believable because I didn’t act right this way then
can now write me off as unbelievable because I don’t act right this other mess of ways.
When I was little, I heard, “Don’t cite sources! Just speak from your heart. Then people might believe you.”
Now, I hear one day, “Cite sources! You’ll never be believed without them! So: Know them, learn them, cite them well, and then I—umm, people—might believe you.”
The next day, I hear, “Don’t cite so many sources! You seem too snooty to be believed with them. If it were true, wouldn’t you be able to show it without referencing all these other people? I mean, really. Don’t be such a snob.”
Putting all these messages together, it’s easy to see:
“Believable” is an ever-moving hurdle placed
to make a gal keep jumping …
These days, then?
I’m aiming not for “believable to others” but “learned for my own good”;
Unlike becoming “believable,” achieving that is within my power.