I made an unhappy discovery about myself last night. It turns out that I have — Pavlovian doggy style — been conditioned to fear The Truth.
I received an email last night from an academic publisher advertizing a new textbook. The subject line of the email read “The Truth is Out There.” As soon as I saw, the subject line, I felt a lump of fear in my throat.
Why? Well, because for four months last year, Our Glorious Institution was terrorized by a misogynist who kept emailing dozens of faculty, staff and students flyers laden with violent imagery and complaining about the evil that is an over-educated woman. One phrase that the sender consistently used in the emails and the flyers was “The Truth” — capitalized just like that.
Of course, women of my generation who were undergrads when Marc Lepine murdered 14 women at Montréal’s École Polytechnique were really frightened that the sender’s hatred of women would escalate into violence. So, for four months, every time I received an email from an unknown (to me) sender with “The Truth” in the subject line, my heart raced with fear.
Since then, the sender was apprehended, tried, and convicted of criminal harassment. I was centrally involved in the case in a bunch of ways that have remained with me. I am, for instance, quite aware that while the author of the emails had no idea who I was at the time he was sending them, he now knows my identity very well.
I’m actually really torn about what to say about all of this. Part of me really wants to write about the experience and what I learned from it. But part of me wants to stay mum because email dude is living in the community on probation and I neither want to cultivate community conditions for him that are less than conducive to rehabilitation nor, quite frankly, do I want to piss him off and remind him of my existence. He’s still scary. And I’m still scared.
And, yeah. That was the lesson last night. I got an email with “The Truth” in the subject line and I felt frightened in exactly the same way that I did this time last year. …Moreso, in fact, because of a bunch of stuff that I don’t at this moment feel safe or comfortable writing about here.
And, do you know what sucks? I’m a professional philosopher. Truth — that’s our thing. For me to feel fear when I see the phrase “The Truth” is kinda like a cobbler who’s afraid of shoes. I don’t know if I’ll ever again be able to see the phrase “The Truth” without being scared. But, for now, I can’t.