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Truth telling and the art of an unmade bed.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
January 10, 2001


"If what you are telling is true, you don't have to choose your words so carefully." — Frank A. Clark

I love getting mail from readers. Letters, both positive and negative let me know when I have struck a nerve. For Christmas this year I received a letter from a woman in Oceanside that absolutely made my day. Reading it, I felt like Rush Limbaugh on the day Clinton was elected. To imply that one needs a degree from Harvard to call George W. Bush an idiot is elitist. All hail the Bush Monarchy? I don't think so.

For most environmentalists a George W. presidency seems like a nightmare of epic proportions. For an environmental writer however, four years of tormenting Bush supporters with my lack of support for our not so duly elected polluter in Chief, is the ultimate case of hitting pay dirt. So please keep those cards and letters coming.

The truth is usually hard to swallow for those who not have a taste for it. One case in point is the recent tantrum over  remarks made by Oceanside Mayor Terry Johnson regarding racism in the Oceanside Police Department. I could be wrong, but it seems the only people upset by the statements where strikingly Caucasian. Coincidence? I don't think so.

I love it when charges of racism are considered to be racist attacks. This is the ethical equivalent of "It takes one to know one."  Let's face it folks Southern California's history has always been rife with racism. It started with the Spanish Mission system and continues today. The OPD is by no means unique. White privilege is everywhere, and will be until it is recognized and corrected. And to call for Terry Johnson's resignation for exercising his First Amendment rights is wrong on various levels.

More than just denial, people who avoid the truth are usually motivated by an aversion to uncomfortable situations. And since anything that would upset the status quo is seen as unnecessarily messy, people reject minority opinions regardless of their validity or the need for change. Personally I think Mayor Johnson should be applauded for his courage, because racism can only be dealt with once it has been acknowledged.

This is where the the art of the unmade bed comes in.  Order is rarely associated with progress. Hitler sought conformity of both opinion and skin color and we all know were that led. Anyone who has an issue with individuals voicing dissenting points of view, should first make sure they understand how and why America came to be. Democracy is a messy business, and our founding fathers would have had it no other way.

An unmade bed is the perfect analogy for chaos. I would also suggest that nothing is more comfortable. For democracy to work all those involved must be prepared for wrinkles and a lack of sharp edges. They also must be prepared for unflattering criticism, alternate points of view, and radical differences. Sometimes the linen just doesn't match. I would also suggest that every bed is incomplete without a few monsters hiding beneath. Politics is never neat, nor should it be. Change is a good thing, fear of it is not.

As an environmental writer I have been called many things for speaking unpopular truths, as has Terry Johnson. Unafraid to upset the natural order of things mess is in no way intimidating. Evolution is only possible through upset and upheaval. Without upheaval we would more than likely still be a British colony knee deep in slavery and other archaic forms of injustice. Dialogue is good, silent acquiescence is not.

I have never been one for accepting what the majority believes to be right, simply because they believe it to be so. This is probably due to the fact that I came of age during the time of the Vietnam War. Sitting too close to the television I saw those unwashed hippies parading across the 6 o'clock news as the true American heros. Bedecked in beads and tie dye these were profiles in courage I could understand.

History proved those who spoke out against America's involvement in Vietnam to be right, just as the facts have demonstrated that Mayor Johnson knows of which he speaks. The truth hurts, but then again so does the steel-toed boot of discrimination. As messy as it can be, I would rather be told an uncomfortable truth than participate in a comfortable delusion any day.

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