A very long time ago, when telephones were tethered to the wall and televisions weren’t, a reported Santa sighting caused me untold grief.
Already a skeptic in the first grade, I wasn’t distressed so much about my own doubt, that the shadow in the front yard on Christmas Eve wasn’t a lurking Santa. I was undone that my parents seemed so convinced that it was.
I was unnerved at age 6 that people entrusted with my care saw things that weren’t there, that they tried to gaslight me about it, and, frankly, that they were so passionately committed to falling for what was to me a blatant con to begin with: The Santa Myth.
“You can’t see Santa right over there behind that shrub?” my dad groaned as I stood on the bed and strained to see through the screened window in my parent’s bedroom.
Poor suburbanites, the Santa Myth was even more difficult to pull off because we had no fireplace.
“I don’t see anything,” I insisted. I told my dad the snorting reindeer he thinks he heard through the closed window was my brother’s labored huffing, excited because he clearly saw what clearly wasn’t. He would later grow up to believe every year that the Broncos were going to the Superbowl, this year, too.
I remember this so vividly now because I’m reliving this so vividly again. I’m equally undone by the ludicrous and clearly untrue, unreal things that run from the mouths of people we vote for and entrust our care to.
As a journalist, I’ve come across a lot of people with grave psychiatric problems whose delusions caused endless grief for themselves and their friends and families. Usually their stories came to me via the intervention of police or medical officials.
Now they come from press releases, tweets and selfies.
The people who say and do things we would normally report to authorities — are the authorities. They’re members of congress, political officials and even the president of the United States.
As a child, I was near panic not knowing whom to tell that my parents were having psychotic episodes in their bedroom and trying to get me to buy in. I didn’t know then what Social Services was. It was years before 9-1-1, and my grandmother just sat next to the green-toilet-brush of a fake Christmas tree and chuckled at my consternation.
Now, I find myself in a very similar position when Western Slope Congressmember-elect Lauren Boebert says, “If you count the same votes over and over you’ll get the same results. We need to do signature verifications and uncover what went on with the algorithms.”
She was referring to a myth about “the algorithms” embedded in vote counting software that nefariously turned votes for President Donald Trump into votes for Joe Biden across the country.
So what do you do when a newly elected member of Congress says crazy stuff, repeatedly, and means it?
No doubt she takes her Q’s from Trump himself, who on Wednesday posted to his Facebook page a 46-minute unhinged diatribe about non-existent voter fraud that had to scare the hell out of whomever he made hold the camera. Trump said that if you take away most of the votes cast against him, he won. His proof is that he’s Trump, and Biden couldn’t possibly beat him.
Unfortunately, with power comes influence. When my crazy ass friends on Facebook talk about how the “algorithms” stole the election from Trump, you just roll your eyes and leave a pithy comment, if they at least have held onto their sense of humor after losing grasp on reality.
But what should reporters do when someone who’s going to help run the country, like Boebert, says, “You can’t see Santa in the front yard because you’re fake news.”
The critical thing here is, this isn’t about making me believe a stranger left a bike for me in the carport. Delusions like the ones Trump and Boebert are bragging about can get people killed.
Those who find her clever and sane tend to carry loaded guns and brag about it. Small wonder since Boebert’s own trademark is that she carries a handgun strapped to her waist just about all the time. She’s dragged her first controversy into the U.S. Capitol by wanting to make sure she can wear the thing anywhere, anytime she chooses, concealed or dangling like a hog leg in an old western movie.
Sane, stable people do not carry guns around strapped to their waists, unless they’re police.
I grew up among farmers and ranchers in the real West around Manzanola in the Arkansas Valley. Almost everyone outside of town had a rifle in the back of the cab, or under the seat or in the trunk. Mostly it was to put down a sheep or cow that got into a bad way with a snake, a ditch, a tractor or a coyote.
The first thing people would do if you walked into Rancher’s Cafe with a handgun is smile politely and decide whether to call the sheriff or just give you the bum’s rush. Then they’d laugh at what a crazy thing that was to do. Crazy is the key word here.
Boebert hails as a restaurant owner from Rifle, a place where the odds of being robbed, chased by a snake or cornered by a coyote are as rare as the chance of Trump staying on as president.
As journalists, how do we handle an elected official that talks crazy talk and does crazy things and then tries to sound serious about voting on issues that affect every American in the country?
This is a person who before Thanksgiving said she doesn’t “believe” in the danger of the pandemic. She says Dr. Anthony Fauci is a communist. She bragged she was going to have a “peaceful protest” at her home over the death of a turkey.
Hysterically, she later said she had about 30 fellow protesters over for the holiday.
“If you see more than 10 people at my home this Christmas, just know we are rioting, peacefully,” she said in a tweet this week. “My kids will be looting the gifts under the tree, if that helps.”
In the decades I’ve been doing this, I’ve quoted people saying all kinds of crazy things, but now, I increasingly have to quote someone clearly crazy saying all kinds of things.
Is that how we tag comments by Boebert and elected officials like her?
“Everything that I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values,” mentally unstable Congressmember Lauren Boebert told the Associated Press in a previous story.
She was talking about the conspiracy theory Q-anon, which is trying to route out a secret army of cannibal pedophiles connected to the movie industry and Democrats. Their secret savior is Trump.
Boebert actually launched her political career right here in Aurora when she took her lucky Glock to a presidential candidate rally on the steps of City Hall. She had the microphone and the media eyes of the world upon her when failed Democratic Candidate Beto O’Rourke famously said, “hell, yes” he’d take assault rifles off the streets, and she now famously said, “hell, no,” while wearing a handgun on her hip.
My first impression then was, that’s crazy. It’s been seriously downhill from there.
Of course, Trump was just warming up his own crazy act, which is now a shrill and endless gaslight-a-palooza finale.
We’ve been trying to keep journalism and reality afloat for four years now, under the Trump regime. We’re tired but old hands at citing the facts after nearly every lie and distortion we attribute to the most powerful person on the planet.
Is that how we have to operate now? Fact checks and context at the end of every line in every story?
Congressperson Boebert said she voted against the federal Red Flag bill because it would eviscerate the Second Amendment rights of insane people and empower known communists in the government, like Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to take over the nation. Boebert refers to most Democrats as communists and carries a loaded gun to the bathroom.
Maybe we just call out crazy in the attribution.
“There is no way that anyone can call the 2020 presidential election fair,” tweeted Congresswoman Lauren “She’s Got a Gun!” Boebert, who plays Grin Rummy with a only half a pinochle deck. ”We have to make this right.”
Yes we do. But first, we have to persuade the adults in the room that neither Santa, the algorithms, nor Q-anon are hiding in the bushes.
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