Amid the multitude of facts, opinions and news stories whirling around Donald Trump’s latest bizarre, unprecedented and seemingly self-serving action (that would be the firing of FBI Director James Comey if you aren’t even sure to which of his latest actions I am referring), one piece of the story has lingered with me.
I just can’t shake the image of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes to avoid a direct confrontation with reporters seeking more information.
I have no doubt my obsession is linked to a memory from my childhood and my need to uncover the truth.
My story begins when my parents purchased our house in a rural, Central Oregon town As part of the transaction, they had gotten a history from the seller, whose family had been the original owners. According to my mom, the seller’s father had “died in the bushes.”
I was six years old at the time, and the line of ornamental bushes that spanned the front of the house ran directly under my bedroom window. For months I was obsessed with the fact that a man had died in those bushes.
I would crawl under them trying to find any sign of either a dead body or, at least, some indication that a man had spent his last moments there. Even though I got nothing, I kept searching in hopes that some clue as to the man’s fate would emerge.
Then one day, my mom found me in the bushes and asked what I was doing.
“You said the man who used to live here died in the bushes,” I told her with all of the solemness that first-grade me could muster.
She had no idea what I was talking about. Only later did I discover that she had used the term “in the bushes” as a euphemism for alcoholism.
I’m now fifty years old, and I’ve never heard anyone else use that term in that way. But that doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that the term “in the bushes” has stuck with me for 44 years because it represents my passion for always pursuing the truth.
Which is why Sean Spicer ducking into the bushes to avoid facing reporters is not only completely ironic, it is more revealing than any lie Donald Trump could ever tell.
People in the public eye want to tell their side of the story. They want to share their opinions and the opinions of those they represent. They want to show evidence of what happened in the bushes and why it happened.
Unless, of course, the bushes are just a way of hiding the truth… be it the ugly truth of an addict who succumbed to a disease or that of an unqualified businessman who bedazzled voters with his wealth, his double speak, and his complete disregard for the truth.
But here’s the thing: when six-year-old me finally got the real facts from my mom, I stopped wasting my time under bushes and decided to devote more time to climbing trees.
Because when you climb trees, your perspective is so much better than the one you get crawling under (or hiding in) a bush.
And not only can you see what is actually occurring around you, you are also putting yourself out in the open for everyone else to see.
And that is what truth is all about.
But I didn’t and I probably never will, so my friends and family are forced to deal with my habitual need to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. About anything and everything.
My husband and kids call me “The Interrogator.”
I’d like to think that means they consider me a superhero who unveils misdeeds, liars and unacceptable behavior by eventually asking so many questions the truth is revealed.
Unfortunately, they aren’t paying me a compliment and instead are simply letting me know they find my all questions annoying. I’ve also been told that people who ask a lot of questions are subconsciously trying to take control of a situation.
There’s probably some truth to that, but I’d rather be annoying than to sit back and just allow people and organizations to get away with actions that affect and sometimes hurt others.
I also like to think that, as an inquisitor, I’m in good company.
This week, at her first Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned bank regulators about why they hadn’t prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis. Her question seemed simple enough, “Tell me,” she requested “about the last few times you’ve taken the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street to trial. Anybody?”
Instead of simply responding “never,” the regulators tried to explain why there was no need to prosecute.
As with anything political, there are those who agree with Senator Warren and those who don’t.
But her actions, to me, were bigger than pointing out the double standard for big corporations versus average citizens or about ensuring that bank executives don’t continue to pass the repercussions of their behaviors onto the general public. Her actions were about her willingness to ask the tough questions and to not back down. Her actions were about repeating the same question over and over again until someone is forced to answer. And, to be honest, her actions were about validating my own behavior.
I’m not even close to being in Elizabeth Warren’s league much the less in the Justice League, but I do believe heroes have to ask the hard questions. If they don’t, silence persists, and nothing ever changes.
So even though my family insists on calling me “The Interrogator” to try to shut me up, it’s not working. Instead, I’m thinking of getting one of those t-shirts with a big question mark on the front. It may not be the fashion statement superheroes make when wearing their capes, but it just might be a start.
Because if no one questions the status quo, then nothing ever changes or improves. So, far all the