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Tell Me Where You’re Broken

When I was a grad student at Columbia I  attended a reading/Q&A with Philip Gourevitch, a writer who had begun as a journalist, found acclaim with his book on the Rwandan genocide, and had recently been appointed editor of the Paris Review. Most of his words that day are lost to me now, except for this: at some point in his career he’d lost interest in interviewing politicians because, he said, “They just lie. All of them.”

We all figure that out at some point, but there was something about the way he said it that day that stuck with me.  Interviewing the dishonest, he said, “Was tiring and – frankly – dull.” It’s much more interesting to hear someone at least try to tell the unvarnished truth.

Politicians lie because they must try to be all things to all people (and, let’s face it, all corporations). Who the hell knows what Obama really thinks about gays? I found his wife, who clearly had mixed feelings about the political spotlight, much more fascinating. She was a little too smart. A little too private. After the election, of course, she had to soften her edges.

At some point all politicians become dull. Who can connect with a liar? Contemporary heroes stay heroic for about thirty seconds. When their flaws are revealed, the world turns on them. But we need each other’s flaws.

The DJ and musician Rich Morel recently commented on his blog about the Killers’ song “Mr. Brightside”:

Brandon Flower’s  vocal has an incredibly vulnerable quality to it. That is what makes him and the band so great.  It’s always the fragile aspects that make me connect with people.

Strength is a glass shield;  my interest slides off those who wave their “strength” around for everyone’s supposed benefit. Which is why I loved Amy Winehouse. In every break-up song she had a part, and she copped to it.

Tell me the truth, regardless of how it makes you look. Tell me where you’ve been broken. When someone gives me that, I feel less alone.

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