Two Degrees off Center: Oh Say, What is Truthiness?

August 31, 2020

Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience.  Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.

Bookshelf

by Rich Keys

In the late 1950s and early 60s, ABC Television ran a nationwide afternoon game show called “Do You Trust Your Wife?” a dumbed-down quiz show in which the host would give a married couple the subject category of the question. The husband would then decide whether to “trust” his wife with the question, or to answer it himself, and the host would then ask the question.

If the husband decided to trust his wife and she won, they would get $25-$75, depending on the difficulty of the question. (Remember, this was an afternoon show and gas was 30 cents/gal.) I assume they would split the winnings (if the wife wasn’t on an allowance), Uncle Sam would get his cut, and the little woman would walk away with an average $20 for enduring the shame and patronizing path to win it in front a nationwide TV audience. If she didn’t live up to her husband’s trust and was wrong, she went through the same shame and ordeal and got nothing to show for it.

In today’s world, if a person at a network came up with a name and gimmick like that, even adjusted for inflation, heads would roll, the CEO of the network would be fired and the entire entertainment division investigated for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and what they’re putting in the water over there, but remember, this was the 1950s, and it was totally good ol’ mainstream USA. If Bill trusted Edna and she got it wrong, the audience would laugh, Bill would laugh, even Edna laughed. After the first year, the title changed from “Do You Trust Your Wife?” to “Who Do You Trust?” not because it seemed so second-class to treat the wife like that, but to open up the contestant pool to unmarried couples, but the man still decided whether to trust the little woman. The biggest outrage came from English teachers who thought the name should be changed to “Whom Do You Trust?” If you don’t think this was the norm back then, consider that the host of the show was some struggling TV guy named Johnny Carson who went directly from this show to The Tonight Show where he would reign King for 30 years.

Today, 60 years later, we’re looking at what’s going on all around us, trying to separate the truth from the truthiness, and still asking ourselves the same question: Who do you trust?

Black is white, white is black.
All lives matter,
but all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.

It’s culture, it’s racism,
It’s culture spelled with three K’s.
It’s systemic, it’s individuals.
It’s protesters, it’s terrorists.
It’s law and order, it’s Stormtroopers.

Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask.
Wear only certain masks.

Kids are immune,
Kids can die,
Kids are carriers.

Open the windows, don’t open the bars.
Open the bars and the windows but only during Happy Hour.

If the party happens off-campus it doesn’t count.
If it’s a pool party it’ll wash right off.

Send the kids to school, keep the kids home.
Alternate school weeks like green waste and the recyclable trash.

Worship online, worship in person.
Worship with singing, with no singing.

God’s law trumps man’s law,
Trump’s law trumps God’s law,
Trump’s law IS God’s law.

This news is true.
This news is fake.
This news is fake-positive.

This test takes a week but it’s accurate.
This fast test takes 15 minutes but it’s often false-positive.
False-positive is better than false-negative.
3 false-positives beats a straight flush.

Day 1: This drug works.
Day 2: I know it works because the doctor who says there’s space alien DNA in our medicine says it works.
Day 3: I’ve never heard of this doctor or the drug.

The economy is great, the stock market is breaking new records every day.
The economy is terrible, my market raised everything from meat to diapers and I still haven’t gotten any stimulus.

More testing than anyone else.
More deaths than anyone else.
More is less, less is more.

Testing is open to anyone who wants one,
limit 100 per day and it’s first come first served.

Listen to the scientists.
Listen to the politicians.
Ignore everyone, it’s all a hoax.

Whether the wrath of the storm-crossed sea, or demons or men or whatever it be, we’re looking for something, anything, to hold onto these days—an anchor or two that will hold the ship of state steady rather than trying to pull it apart, and to do it with facts that come from a credible source. For me, one of those anchors is Dr. Anthony Fauci. He’s considered one of the world’s leading experts on infectious disease and allergies, having been the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. That’s significant because, in the world of politics where everyone is trying to build their own kingdom, he’s been happy where he is for 36 years. He keeps getting offers to lead their parent agency, the National Institutions of Health (NIH), but has turned them down, stating he’s fine where he is and feels great satisfaction in being able to serve his country and others from his current perch.

In those 36 years, he’s served as an advisor for all six US presidents, on both sides of the aisle, from Reagan to Clinton to Trump, and at their request, not his. That’s not easy to do in the middle of all the crossfire in politics that’s only getting worse, but he stays grounded by focusing on science and facts. He’s gotten a little flak from some people recently for flip-flopping on the facts, but that’s the nature of science. We no longer believe that the sun rotates around the earth because we’ve learned a little since 1543. Every time we send another probe to Mars, it returns more questions than answers. So when this strange, new corona critter appeared, scientists had no history, no database, no well of knowledge to draw on to get a head start on it, and it was a mad scramble by an unprecedented ad hoc network of people in white coats who usually compete with each other, but who came together this time in an all-out effort to learn about it, cope with it, and get ahead of it, so we can ultimately predict its next move with a certain level of confidence and win the war.

The world often puts its heroes on pedestals to worship and admire. The problem is the higher the pedestal, the more it wobbles until the hero falls like Humpty Dumpty when the scandal hits. Fauci doesn’t live for the limelight. He prefers staying in the background and doing what he does best, and when he goes home to his native Brooklyn, he’s Tony to everyone who sees him…just one of the guys. He has the unique quality to be admired by both presidents and the guy on the street, and he still keeps himself grounded.

The LGBTQ community also considers him a hero and one of their own. To understand that, you have to go all the way back to the fall of 1981, when another strange, new disease started to make itself known. It had many parallels with today’s COVID-19. Both had a nickname that offended and stigmatized people (gay cancer and China virus). They were both dismissed or even ignored by the Feds in their early days. Masks and condoms were both considered by many a violation of their rights and freedom to do as they pleased. Dr. Fauci wrote an article for a medical journal at that time stating anyone who felt this outbreak would stay confined to a group of individuals didn’t have any evidence to back that up. He also stated the virus could very likely explode into a very serious outbreak. He was labeled an alarmist by many. Then the gay cancer became AIDS and started killing straights as well as gays—and suddenly Tony the alarmist became Dr. Fauci the expert, the guy with street cred. He was on the forefront of the AIDS crisis from its earliest days, giving us the facts, and becoming the go-to guy for the world.

At the height of the AIDS epidemic came Larry Kramer, the most outspoken, controversial, in-your-face gay activist of all, demanding “more” from everyone—more research, more money, more validation, more respect, more press coverage, more compassion, more everything. He frightened everybody in his path who he didn’t think was doing enough in battling AIDS. That included scientists and the government, and Anthony Fauci was a part of both. Fauci knew Kramer had it in for him, but instead of tuning out the opposition, the scientist began to listen to the activist and realized what he said was true. In Fauci’s own words, “So one day I called him and asked him to tell me more. We started out as adversaries, then advocates for the same cause…and later became acquaintances and friends. Towards the end of his life, we got very close, and I think you can say that Larry and I both loved each other.”

If the lion and the lamb can both lie down together back then, then maybe, just maybe, we can find the courage to pick up the phone, call our adversary, and ask to meet to listen and learn more. Maybe we can find a common ground in today’s world, whether it’s scientists vs. politicians, or Republicans vs. Democrats, or white people vs black people, or police vs. protesters, or LDS vs. LGBTQ—maybe we can find something, anything, that’s a common ground, and then become advocates in a common cause, and then maybe even friends. If Fauci and Kramer can become Tony and Larry, there’s still hope.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.

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2 Comments

  1. ConnieRau on September 5, 2020 at 8:05 AM

    Very well written, Richard.

  2. Anonymous on September 6, 2020 at 10:55 AM

    You bring up great points regarding the confusing times we live in and also a practical way to step up and try to cut through some of the divisiveness.

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