The Lies Have It

Things don’t look so good from where I’m sitting, despite the fact that I’ve tried to dress up my cubicle with snapshots of my nephews and godchildren and a signed picture of The Blue Lagoon‘s Christopher Atkins. Microsoft is playing innocent while it bumps uglies with right-wing wackos: In addition to its handouts to fundamentalist “financial adviser” Ralph “The Beast” Reed, the corporation’s payroll also includes Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist, who, according to a recent Seattle Times article, “runs breakfasts for religious leaders with Karl Rove” at the White House. Meanwhile, President Bush still has his happy face on about Iraq, though even Terri Schiavo at her least chatty could’ve articulated how daily suicide bombings don’t translate into “winning,” and the outrages at Abu Ghraib undoubtedly did not spring from the mastermind of dim- witted Lynndie England. So, until some elderly reader informs me that he had to walk five miles through horse manure to school every morning, I’d say we’re more knee-deep in bullshit than at any other period in recent memory.

I’m as big, or bigger, a fan of fluffy and frothy and sometimes, frankly, even foul-smelling distractions as the next person, but lately I’m mired in worry about how much longer a nation so freely steeped in continual half-truths or outright whoppers on every level can maintain the illusion of health and happiness. I seem increasingly to feel like Big Daddy near the end of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a disillusioned man raging through the home he once loved with cries of “mendacity!” Lies, lies, lies—it’s all lies!

Even “reality” TV, of course, is without veracity. The people who create it and the people who participate in it—from makeover specialists to survivors to would-be starlets—all have the goal of taking something real and turning it into something somehow less true. Paula Abdul, for chrissakes, purportedly can’t manage to remain honest in the game: Girlfriend gets a second chance at a career with that fraudulent American Idol franchise and she supposedly decides to out-phony them by playing favorites and puckering up with a contestant after hours. (You know America has sunk as low as it can go when a chipmunky ex–L.A. Lakers cheerleader is a Svengali-like power broker.) Of course, all of those allegations could be completely false, coming, as they do, from some punk who wants a recording contract and network “news” programs that want a boost during May sweeps.

Brad Pitt with Angelina Jolie? Yes, it’s glorious fun, and I plan on needing several days of privacy following the promised sex scenes of their upcoming Mr. and Mrs. Smith —whichever press agent engineered this coupling is on my permanent Christmas card list—yet I can’t help but note how very close to the opening of said film the news of this romance has broken wide open.

Then, of course, there’s the Official Announcement that Tom Cruise is dating Dawson’s Creek Lolita Katie Holmes. Yeah. Uh. Um. Hmmm.

Come to think of it—that Christopher Atkins photo of mine? It’s not really his autograph. Someone else scribbled it, thinking it might make someone else happy.