Living a myth…

Questions from a Ewe

I vividly remember “the talk” with my mom. You know, “the talk…” My older sister, tired of defending my unwavering belief in Santa, bullied me into asking the big question, “Is Santa real?” My mom’s gentle explanation combined with my fervent desire to believe initially produced the opposite effect my sister intended. Words are weak instruments to describe her reaction when I returned from that little chat triumphantly proclaiming, “I knew it! Santa is real!” However, I do remember her reaction did include grabbing my hand and dragging me back to our mom protesting, “Mom! What did you tell her?! She still believes!”

My mom had taken me to a mirror and said, “Yes, Santa is real but he is not a fat, jolly guy in a red suit. He can look just like the girl in the mirror when she gives a gift at the giving tree.” I so much wanted to believe in the entirety of the Santa myth that I filtered out all words except “Santa is real.” I’m happy to report that we did achieve mutual clarity within the span of about 15 minutes. I was 8 years old and it was time to live with a different understanding of the myth. My sister felt for her and my own physical and mental well-being, it was well past time but that’s a debate for another day.

I find myself reflecting upon that fervent desire to believe in a myth after watching the movie “Spotlight.” This movie chronicles the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism that led to its January 6, 2002 bombshell story about the Catholic Church knowingly leaving numerous pedophile priests in active ministry for decades. Though individual sex abuse stories had been published throughout previous decades, this story altered the conversation because it demonstrated that a sick, systemic culture involving hierarchy and laypeople enabled and helped perpetuate widespread abuse. It revealed a culture pretending each abuse case was simply an individual, isolated, “whoopsie there” incident so as to perpetuate the myth of a perfect church. People turned their heads for a myriad of reasons all stemming from scandal avoidance desires: “priests are good guys”, “just doing my job”, “the church does such good work in other places”, “my fellow parishioners bully whistle-blowers”, “Cardinal/bishop so-and-so says it is the best thing for the church”, etc…

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