January 11, 2012
"There is a separate language in each of us."
In 2006, I was visiting a friend in the District of Columbia. It happened that she had a prior engagement that she had to attend during my visit. I took the opportunity to attend a talk by Senator McCain. While I was not much of a supporter of Senator McCain, his speech to a large group of right-to-center lawyers was interesting. The substance of the talk itself is unimportant for our purposes here, but I enjoyed it - it made my outing worthwhile. I did not leave the hotel where he spoke as a newly ordained McCain supporter, but I left with more respect for the man. Frankly, I found the speech inspired. Upon returning to my friend’s apartment, I logged on to MSNBC.com, where I found an article about the speech I had heard thirty minutes prior. The article purported to describe the content of Senator McCain’s speech. It identified the date and time of the speech. I was there. It identified the make-up of the audience and the speaker. I was there. And then it explained what the speaker communicated to the audience. I must have been in an alternate universe. “That was not the speech I had heard,” I thought. I looked for clues to bridge the gap. Was there some plausible interpretation of the speech that I had missed but that the writer had grasped? Was there a sub-text I failed to identify? There wasn’t. Either the author stretched the truth so far as to completely misrepresent what I thought to be an inspired speech or I was in an alternate reality from the one the article purported to describe. Maybe that was just politics. However, after that evening, I never logged onto MSNBC’s website again.
That evening in D.C., I truly experienced what was meant by the saying, “You can’t always believe what you read.” It was a powerful experience for me.
I had almost forgotten that evening until I tried making sense of passages in articles, blogs, comments, posts, and reports about the Duncan School of Law that I had read in the last few weeks. There are verifiable facts, and sometimes a glimpse of the truth in some of the articles and reports and posts. However, I often got the sense that I have been living in an alternate reality for the past two and a half years when I read many of the articles and reports and posts, including Joe’s fact-checking post, where he indicated, “In March 2011 a site team visited Duncan Law and produced a report that was critical of the law school's operations in several respects.” I remember a site team in March 2011. I saw them; they spoke with me. I remember a report they produced. I read it. However, I must not properly understand the term “critical.” So I ask, “Can we really know the truth?” Maybe the courts can. Maybe it is but an illusion. Maybe it’s just politics. Maybe I’m off my rocker.
In any event, I shall conclude with what I see as a truth (or a glimpse of it), a quote from Marilynn Robinson, “In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable--which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.” (DCW)