Russell and Duenes

President Obama, Manti Te’o, Lance Armstrong and the “Power of Story”

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ideashaveconsequencesSo President Obama invented some people in his life history. Who cares? So what if the New York “girlfriend” he supposedly had in Dreams from My Father was a fabricated “composite” of other relationships he had. What does it matter? It’s a good story, right?

And so what if Lance Armstrong “doped” all those years during all those races. I mean “the momentum of his own story,” as ABC News put it, really made the lie necessary, didn’t it? As he tells it, “this story was so perfect for so long,” the conquering of cancer, the 7 Tour de France wins, Livestrong, the wife, the children, “it’s just this mythic, perfect story.”

And maybe Manti Te’o really was duped, and maybe someone did “Catfish” him, causing him to truly believe he had a girlfriend on the other end of the line. Maybe he indeed had strong feelings for a woman he never actually saw in the flesh. Yet according to ESPN, “[m]ultiple media outlets have found numerous instances of the Notre Dame linebacker talking about Lennay Kekua as if she had existed after Dec. 6, the date that he and the university say he found out that the girl that he thought he was having a relationship with and who died of leukemia was made up.” And why not? It’s a “good story,” right?

In 1948, Richard Weaver wrote his now-famous book, Ideas Have Consequences, and one has to wonder what kinds of consequences are coming home to roost upon a postmodern people and nation who have been educating their children for decades to believe that virtually everything is a “social construct,” that language can be tweaked and twisted to mean whatever the speaker or writer wants it to mean, that language and history are just “tools for power,” that ultimate reality is something ephemeral, something that “no one can really know,” that there is no absolute, knowable “right and wrong,” and that we must tap into “the power of story?” Could it be that the postmodern ideas, promulgated in our schools and universities, lead to the consequence that, when one has a “good story,” just go with it? If a tree is known by its fruit, as our Lord Jesus said, then might we expect to see even greater varieties of the “composite” relationships and “catfishing” and whole made up narratives (see Janet Cooke, who won a Pulitzer Price for a made-up story called “Jimmy’s World”)?

When we teach lies; when we teach that we can virtually create a “self” that isn’t real in order to present it to the world as who we want to be; when we teach that reality is “unknowable” and that, therefore, all of life is about “creating narratives” by which to gain political or social power, then we ought not be appalled when those lies bear fruit. We’re all “postmodern” now.



Written by Michael Duenes

January 18, 2013 at 8:17 am

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