“Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”-John 20:29
Oprah Winfrey, queen of daytime talk and international publishing impresario, turned on the author of one of her book club selections Jan 26.
James Frey, author of the best selling book, A Million Little Pieces, squirmed in his chair, wet eyes pleading for escape, as Winfrey pilloried him on live television for fabricating parts of his book, which was irresponsibly marketed as a memoir.
“I feel duped,” Winfrey fumed at Frey.
She recommended Frey’s book to her millions of devoted followers under the assumption that every single word of Frey’s obviously tall tale was unimpeachably true. In fact, Frey embellished on, and admitted on Winfrey’s show that he lied about, virtually every seminal event in his book.
Initially, Winfrey stood by A Million Little Pieces, calling the kafuffle over Frey’s artistic licence “much ado about nothing.” But after some soul-searching and prodding from critics, Winfrey changed her mind, she said, because “I left the impression that the truth is not important.”
Was Winfrey’s instinctive faith in Frey’s tale of redemption misplaced? Of course it was. The book belongs on the same literary shelf with other nonsensical, but captivating, stories of salvation and redemption like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Christian Bible and almost 70 years worth of Batman comics.
Winfrey and her viewers were sucked into blind faith in A Million Little Pieces because they were ripe for it. They wanted to believe the story was true because to do so re-enforced their faith in the attainability of their own salvation.
It’s this same peculiarity of the human psyche, this vulnerability to potions of faith, fear and longing, that ambitious men have exploited since time immemorial to harness the will of the masses.
It’s this peculiarity that enables a fundamentalist wacko to convince a young person there’s some kind of virtue in strapping a bomb to his body and setting it off in a crowded public place.
It’s this same peculiarity that enabled the American president to win re-election by convincing the American people that evil lurked around every corner and that attacking Iraq was the best course even though no weapons of mass destruction were found there, no link between the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein was evident and virtually all of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.
The same peculiarity was exploited to convince Canadian voters to suspend their knowledge that the Conservative Party, and our new prime minister, rest on foundations of socially conservative, Evangelical Christian, anti-queer values.
Canadian voters put a significant level of faith in the Conservatives. They bargained for salvation from Liberal hypocrisy, corruption and arrogance but have risked as collateral the socially progressive society that Canadians have worked so hard to build.
I do see a silver lining in the Conservative victory. This government may be short-lived and may help to mitigate tension and bickering among the provinces. A simple change in leadership may help to relieve the long-standing bureaucratic paralysis that afflicts Canadian politics. But mostly, I hope that a Conservative government will help to serve as a clarion call to the queer community that, in spite of our fragile and illusory marriage privileges, the fight for queer liberation is not even close to over and never was.
Having a Conservative government should serve as a kick in the ass for those queer people who are distracted by gay marriage while queer kids are persecuted in schools, while queer people are attacked or murdered because of their sexuality, while gay men with AIDS die homeless and desperate, and while innocent queer sexual expression is subverted at every turn.
As the Conservatives move into their wobbly mandate, their true colours will likely begin to show again. The only question is whether the queer community and the rest of the electorate will see it and react, or whether the Conservatives will pour a potion of faith, fear and longing into the ears of Canadians that will leave us oblivious to the importance of truth.