I’d like to think that I learn from my mistakes. Last issue, right around this time, I began writing about the recently delivered Mueller report. In the midst of what I was typing, Attorney General William Barr showed up to work on a goddamn Sunday and threw everything I’d written out of whack. I figured it was pretty much a done deal. I mean, what sort of moron, let alone one who had spent his career at the upper echelons of public service, would whitewash such an important document in this day and age?
Here we are, just about two weeks later, finding out the Cliff’s Notes version of the 400-page document may have not told the whole story, and still, no one has seen the damn thing. At this point, the Mueller report is sort of like the Loch Ness Monster. People will swear that the fucking thing is real, but all we have to go on is some blurry photos of some shadowy blob peeking out of a lake. Is that a terrible analogy? I don’t care. I just love the Loch Ness Monster. And conspiracy theories. Is Nessie involved in the Russia probe somehow? Can you prove to me that it isn’t?!
You couldn’t convince me that it isn’t. I mean, I know it’s not … and I know that it probably doesn’t even exist, but that doesn’t stop me from believing in it. That’s why belief is so cool, yet so dumb. Like, no matter what’s in the Mueller report, people are going to keep on believing whatever they want. That’s probably why Trump’s poll numbers didn’t budge after Barr’s hastily scribbled summary. It would seem that the public has already made up its mind about the president, as I have about the Loch Ness Monster. I just prefer to live in a world where it may exist.
So I get it: Trump supporters want to believe in the mythology of a brash, tough-talking champion of the “forgotten man” who built a billion-dollar empire through the strength of his determination (or something like that). And I want to believe that some relic of the age of dinosaurs somehow managed to hold up in some lake in Scotland for millions of years, beating the odds, subsisting on cod or sturgeon or something … mating with eels maybe? Sure. Why not? Mating with eels is fine.
The results are different, but I guess the mindset is the same. I’m not condoning either belief, mind you. I’m just over here trying to flex my empathy. Eventually, you’d have to think that we’re going to know what we don’t know. Someone is going to dredge that 400-page lake and find something. It may not be a millennia-old sea monster, but maybe its fossilized excrement. It’s highly unlikely that the report says nothing, because, like, it would have required far fewer words to do so. A simple, “We’re good,” sent in an email would have sufficed. Or, for even more brevity, the thumbs-up emoji.
The big question is if, when the gory details are splayed out for the world to see, will it make much of a difference? Belief is such a primal thing. I read a headline on NPR.com that said, “Suspected Rhino Poacher Killed by Elephant, Eaten by Pride of Lions in South Africa.” The headline was so descriptive, that I didn’t really need to read the whole story. My first thought was, “Good. He got what he deserved … and in probably the most poetic way possible.”
I did scroll down, though, to read that ranters inside Kruger National Park were contacted by members of the suspected poacher’s family. They were hoping to find their loved one’s remains, but, according to the article, “only a human skull and a pair of pants” were found.
I believe poachers deserve whatever they get, but when I imagined this family trying to bury their loved one I had a moment of pause. I thought, why did this person take up poaching to begin with? Was he poor? What made him so desperate that he would engage in such an illegal, immoral and dangerous activity? What unscrupulous assholes would pay so much for dead rhino bits that poaching these magnificent beasts would be a lucrative endeavor?
It’s easier to just believe something, because if you hold it dear enough, you can exclude whatever contrary information arises that makes you feel uncomfortable. You can stand fast, even when you’re totally wrong, or partially wrong, or simply misguided.
But Nessie, you don’t have anything to worry about. I still love you, girl.
**This column first appeared in print on page 30 of issue #289 (April 10 – 24, 2019)**