Fact or Fiction

My version of the story may be fact, or fiction.   You can take that to the bank, even though fact and fiction may be woven together without a seam and almost always are.  I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.   Think of any story you’ve heard, it contains the seeds of fact and the seeds of fiction grown together.  A little bit of fiction thrown into an otherwise completely truthful account of a well-recalled event can explain something in a very satisfying way sometimes.   Wisdom, if it is to be had, is choosing what is most useful, most evocative and real, among the interactive facts and fictions.

Wisdom, I joke.  There is only the way we treat each other.

I think of how many ways a child might be lied to.  The lies are limited only by the imagination and determination of the liar.  What do we call these lies?   Fact, because the world may repeat them loudly, over and over, in a chorus sung to an earwig tune that is hard to drum out of mind?  Fiction, because in the clear light provided by someone who loves you without selfishness or thought of profit, the ridiculousness of these lies can be easily seen?

How about the boy who watches his father be emasculated every day, what is the fact and fiction in his life?   Hard question.   What is it to be “emasculated”?   It is to take away from a man, by some kind of force, the vital sense that, in a rugged moment, he can protect himself, protect others.   This is the one thing a man has, at heart — the image of himself as strong enough to protect himself and those he loves.  Forget all the other trappings of what we think of as toxic masculinity, and no mistake, those are some toxic trappings to what we commonly think of as masculinity.  Emasculation is called that because the symbolism is easy to grasp: you hold a man powerless and forcibly remove that masculine quality that makes him think he has any control. [1]

We can call this rendering powerless by other names, or by no name, and it is certainly not restricted to use against men.   It is routinely and brutally done to women, and to vast multitudes of children, to anyone who attempts to act, as we all start off doing, with self-agency.   With the belief that our life is of infinite value, and unique, that our soul is a miracle, that there is right and there is evil and that we must be warriors against evil without becoming like those motherfuckers.

I see myself standing with the kid who is having his ass kicked.  I see myself there, even though I am almost never there during the actual ass whupping.   Kids have their asses handed to them every day, every minute of every hour of every day.  The things routinely done to kids make a certain kind of grown up want to scream.   Screaming is no help in this case.  A scream is only a reaction to horror, a turing up of the volume, it only makes things worse for everybody.  

Picture a hand moving quickly enough and strongly enough to intercept the fist heading toward the child’s face.  Picture Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kun Do, the Way of the Intercepting Fist, not practiced for personal glory, not for inflicting punishment on a violent jackass, but to intercept the fist, turn aside the blow, save the child from the punch, make the adult hesitate, afraid, perhaps become amenable to a larger discussion of right and wrong.

Picture the same child at dinner, watching someone she loves reducing her father to a puddle of fear, the awful lessons she must draw from it.   My father can’t protect me, my mother is a monster!   Fact or fiction, makes no difference in the individual case, everyone can picture this child’s dilemma.  The best fiction, of course, has the ring of truth throughout, is played without false notes.   Maybe it didn’t happen, maybe it couldn’t even happen, no matter, the story itself makes sense.  Real people would really do that, or want to do that, or dream of doing that.   The line is not always clear between fact and fiction, is it?

“Who are you talking to, dear?”  

And then, of course, there is always “who are you talking to, asshole?” which can be said in every shade of viciousness or perfect politeness if the tone is done just right.  And the tone is always done just right, done to a turn.



[1] Note, please, how daintily I have avoided any reference to the horrifically graphic castration.    Oops.

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