The Varieties of Self-Delusion

There’s an interview out this week with Rachel Dolezal, which you don’t need to read, at least the Rachel Dolezal part. The interviewer herself, however, has some very acute observations and insights about her subject and broader context, which are definitely worth your time, if you’re so inclined.

Dolezal herself isn’t quite letting go of her past as an ersatz Black woman, but she’s recasting herself as transracial — emphasis on “trans”, because Caitlyn Jenner. Not biracial, not someone who grew up immersed in two cultures, but transracial — a White person who identifies as Black.

Blame National Geographic. No, really. Dolezal does.

What catches our attention, and why we’re bringing it to yours, is how thoroughly Dolezal clings to her personal creation myth, in the face of some very incisive questioning. She will not be budged. That’s her (latest) story, and she’s sticking to it.

Which reminded us of Diane Downs.

What you may know of Downs, if anything, probably stems from a book, or the TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett. Downs shot her three young children in 1983, killing one and disabling the other two. She claimed she had been carjacked by a stranger who had also shot her in the arm.

What we know of Downs stems from the fact that the shootings happened in Springfield, Oregon, while we lived next door in hometown Eugene. Murder charges were brought nine months after the event, during which everyone in the area watched the story unfold — and unravel.

This included our mother. We don’t recall her buying Downs’s story, but she expressed utter disbelief that a mother could do that — it was simply inconceivable. We played it the other way: The fact it did happen meant that it could happen, and the only task remaining was to understand why. But to get there, you had to go deep and dark. And somehow Mom had raised a son who was willing to.

Here we should note that the moment was some three years into Reagan, who had won his election by eight million votes. We were already well-practiced in understanding the worst of our fellow citizens.

The conclusion we reached then, and maintain today, is simple: People can convince themselves of just about anything, for just about any reason, or for no reason at all. The details will vary widely, which makes individual cases curiosities at best, but which can wreak great havoc when a particular delusion is shared by a significant number of people.

Say, regarding vaccines. Or the effects of humans upon their environment. Or the merits of a two-bit con man who tapes his ties.

The problem with delusions is that they can’t be countered. They can’t be debated. They can only be fought, and fought hard, which is thoroughly exhausting.

So when the media continues to insist we live in a “divided” country, as if dealing with the world that exists is somehow equivalent to living in your own private fairy tale, we can’t help but wonder: What the hell is their delusion?

12 comments:

12:24 pm • Saturday • April 22, 2017

Yes. And this flat Earth thing. One of my brothers really and truly thinks the Earth is flat. And he has three small children whom he is homeschooling when he’s not high or maybe when he is.

We both broke away from fundamentalist Christianity, and I expect the kids will break away from crazy shit, eventually. But my brother found another crazy thing to feverently believe. I wonder where my blind spot is.

7:39 pm • Saturday • April 22, 2017

The good news is that people are fighting back. The Santa Barbara Science March was awesome, especially for a city its size.

Best signs seen:

Depower the Demon Clown

Fact Lives Matter

STEM the Insanity

WTF: The element of disbelief

What do we want? Evidence based reasoning
When do we want it? After peer review

8:29 pm • Saturday • April 22, 2017

@¡Andrew!: My faves from Ess Eff march:

Give Bees A Chance

Einstein Was A Refugee

Make America Think Again

And lots of “I’m With Her” signs with pictures of the globe

12:22 am • Sunday • April 23, 2017

@SanFranLefty: MATA!!!

I (((heart))) it.

10:33 pm • Wednesday • April 26, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Sooooooo, Joy has a disgusting wart on her tongue. So gross. Please let me know if your pup is okay. As in, I hope she didn’t give your dog CPV (I don’t know if that’s a thing, but she has a papilloma, and it’s fucking gross). She was licking my face and I was like, “WTF? When did you get an itchy cat tongue?” Just ick. ICK ICK ICK. SHUDDER ICK

12:07 am • Thursday • April 27, 2017

Hey, so is that green gunk on the houses in the woods mold? Do I need to powerwash that shit every year? I don’t like it.

12:41 am • Thursday • April 27, 2017

@JNOV: Be grateful it’s only on the outside — friends called one place I lived the Mildew Palace.

As far as recommended maintenance, no clue. My dad rarely bothered, but given the condition of the Ancestral Home, that’s not a recommendation.

10:30 am • Thursday • April 27, 2017

@JNOV: I get moss growing on my roof. It builds up over a couple years. The last time I cleaned it off I used some “natural” stuff from the hardware store. Mrs something or other’s Moss Out maybe? Anyway, it made a clear solution that I sprayed on the roof with a garden sprayer, and left it sit. After a couple weeks the moss was gone, washed away by the rain.

10:29 pm • Thursday • April 27, 2017

@JNOV: Steve is OK as far as I can tell : )

1:33 pm • Friday • April 28, 2017

@JNOV: I think it’s important to remove the moss from the roof. I’d only worry about power-washing the walls if they’re wood. I don’t bother since we have siding. Life is much easier if you decide the moss is “charming.” :)

2:15 am • Saturday • April 29, 2017

Ohhhhh, that’s what moss is! (Kind of not kidding)

2:15 am • Saturday • April 29, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Phew! Glad!

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