When lies make you sputter

In the current super-heated medical-political world you hear lies that make you sputter. How can an apparently thinking person voice such thoughts? Doesn’t this nonsense stick coming out of the throat? Answering with facts just doesn’t matter.

All those years of study and experience based on the notion that if you research and marshal your facts and present them cogently you can make a difference, be convincing. Maybe not. That’s distressing, ground-of-being shaking. Does education not matter in the end?

Up against alternative facts, brings back two crystal memories of being about eight years old and gut-punched by “alternative facts.”

A babysitter who went to high school, and therefore seemed an adult, announced “Doctors predict that in fifty years we won’t have toes. That’s evolution.” I stoutly maintained that this was crazy. “Doctors say so,” she rejoined primly. It was like trying to argue a point in a language you don’t know, like Finnish. I did understand that “doctors” was too broad a term but I didn’t know the word for “evolutionary biologist.” I knew there was evolution and it was slow, but couldn’t come up with exactly how slow. I knew toes were important (wiggling, picking up stuff, walking) but “physiology” or “body mechanics” were beyond me. Bottom line, I was a kid and she was grown up. I felt helpless, reduced to sputtering, “You’re wrong.” I remember staying up to grill my father on The Matter of Toes, but the babysitter was long gone. I think he nixed her return. But still I remember that visceral sense of helplessness.

About that time I went after school to a girlfriend’s house. It seemed like a good enough time. I guess board games and cards, making a snack, riding bikes, playing with her dog. The usual stuff. No arguments. I went home, fully thinking we’d do this again, maybe at my house. No. The next day at school she said I couldn’t come back.  Ever. “Why not?” I asked. “My dog told me he doesn’t like people with dirty blond hair.” I was innocent enough to have run mentally through assorted logical fallacies with this statement. Dogs don’t speak. Dogs don’t see color. The dog gave every sign of “liking” me. My hair wasn’t dirty or even blond. Something told me not to argue. After all, I’d thought we had a good time but that was wrong. Still, the dog thing uttered so blandly, like infallible gospel, had won the day. Stopped me cold.

Lies are bigger now. COVID, democracy, global warming. Still there’s that gobsmacked feeling of impotence. Makes you want to curl your toes. Or wash your hair. Or get your dad to tell someone off. But he’s not here anymore and you feel alone.



Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Posted in Just life, WWWS
6 comments on “When lies make you sputter
  1. Betty Pagett says:

    Thank you….who can speak truth to such firmly held ideas….our task….


  2. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed this. I miss my toes almost every day. And my Dad. And facts.


  3. Iosifina says:

    I know that feeling. These last two years have made me want to crawl into a cave to avoid this insanity.


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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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