In December 1992 the Rob Reiner/Aaron Sorkin movie, “A Few Good Men” made its debut on the big screen with major stars Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kiefer Sutherland. It wasn’t just the star power that made that movie memorable, it was memorialized more so because of the dramatic verbal exchange between two of its main protagonists, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise and Col. Nathan Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson. That exchange escalated when Lt. Daniel Kaffee demanded: “I want the truth!” To which Col. Nathan Jessep responded: “You can’t handle the truth!” We know that life imitates art, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that too many people like Lt. Kaffee refuse to handle the truth. Just 12 years later, on May 17, 2004, America’s dad Bill Cosby made a speech at the NAACP Legal defense Fund Awards ceremony that went down in infamy among younger Blacks and ultimately among the Black intelligentsia. That speech was cast as “the Pound cake Speech” and was almost as devastating to his career as the sexual allegations which ultimately earned him a prison sentence.
In that speech Cosby’s truth, which was directed to some in the Black community said in part, “These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! And then we all run out and are enraged, “The cops shouldn’t have shot him.” What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else, and I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, ‘If you get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother.’ Not ‘you’re going to get your butt kicked.’ No. You’re going to embarrass your family.”
During, and since that total and unrelenting condemnation of Cosby’s speech, most of his detractors either refused or failed to recall how Cosby became famous – Cosby made his fame as a comedian, and like all comedians, he is given to hyperbole and speech that is irreverent and insensitive, but always possessing a kernel of truth, because that’s how comedy works. They readily accept the filthy and tasteless personal abuse hurled at them by less imaginative comedians whose repertoire is, either, misogynistic, homophobic or self-hating; yet they readily take offence at Cosby’s observations and opinions, no matter how truthful they are. Does it come across as elitist or judgmental? Maybe, but its truth is not in question, it’s incontrovertible; cynical, sarcastic, insensitive in parts, but still true. Why can’t we handle the truth? I am shaking my head, because in 2014 when The Pew Research Center conducted their Religious Landscape Study, among its findings, it determined that 79% of Black Americans self-identify as Christians, and if there is one thing that Christianity boasts, is its devotion to truth. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32 KJB
What does it say about anyone or any group who refuses to accept the truth about a particular situation or set of set circumstances? The obvious conclusion would be that they are in denial; America is in denial because the majority of White Americans refuse to accept the truth of systemic racism, they refuse to accept the truth of universal inequality, they refuse to accept the truth about compensating the people they enslaved and brutalized, and they refuse to accept the truth that the sins of their fathers remains part of their posterity, hence, part of their responsibility.
So, here we are in one of the greatest civilizations of the world, in possession of untold wealth, advanced medical treatments that prolong life, access to mental and spiritual resources to expand our consciousness and a repository of historical data that informs our lives, yet we remain incapable of accepting the truth about our separate worlds. The world of White supremacy who refuse to accept the truth of its destructive reign of terror and is thereby resistant to change, and the world of Black survivors who refuse to accept the truth that self-sabotage is eroding its mental and spiritual advancement, thereby resisting the necessary shift to freedom and liberation.
In his thought-provoking book The War of Art, (a fascinating word play on the best seller The Art of War) Steven Pressfield says, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two, stands resistance.” White America in its persistent resistance to truth is experiencing that unlived life and Black America in our persistent resistance to truth is also experiencing that unlived life. Between the two stands that implacable spirit of resistance.
We all can attest to the fact that at certain times in our life we seek to respond to a higher calling, awareness, mindfulness, higher consciousness, and a place where we desire to live a more spiritually fulfilling life. Yet, very soon we discover that the path to that life requires dedication, courage, endurance, resilience and great sacrifice, so, we just as soon abandon the journey. In his book Human, All too Human Nietzsche offered this explanation, “They fear their Higher Self because, when it speaks, it speaks demandingly.” It comes down to this stark reality – Whoever accepts the truth wins.