Linda Downing

We need a reality check

Linda M. Downing

If the harsh realities of planet Earth have not taught us that "I Did It My Way" sounded good when Frank Sinatra sang it but ultimately doesn't work, then what will? Rather than waiting until the end of the year to evaluate ourselves, we might switch tactics and look outward instead. We need a reality check: Being masters of introspection only freezes us in place.

Denial may be introspection's twin. A recent survey told us that 1 in 200 American women claim to have become pregnant as virgins. More than 30 percent of those "virgins" had signed chastity pledges. Parents of that group were "more likely" to be squeamish about sex talk with their children. Clearly, the "virgins" and their parents need to face reality. The mental and emotional loss of innocence and delicateness, tough as they are, are not as harmful as the actual physical damage resulting from denial. Reality demands we arm our children with truth.

In today's world reality also calls for exact definition. When most people say "get real," they mean produce the factual and material. The State of Florida's Department of Management Services ruled that a holiday diorama proposed by the New York-based Satanic Temple "is grossly offensive," a term that leads to subjective interpretation. An angel tumbling into hell did not seem a good Christmas choice for the state Capitol, but the Satanic Temple is threatening to sue, saying "grossly offensive" works both ways.

In one of 2013's best opinion pieces, Christine M. Flowers of the Philadelphia Daily News quoted George Orwell: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people

what they do not want to hear." Flowers, a lawyer, stated unequivocally that she believes

abortion is murder, "pure and simple," and that as long as no weapon stronger than the tongue is used, she and others retain the right to say it.

There was a not-so-long-ago time when Flowers' right to opinion would not be challenged. That time is over. Every opinion not lining up with popular culture evokes the ire of a populace, no matter how small their percentage in relation to the total population, making itself so vocal that the courts have become wishy-washy interpreters of non-existent laws that are apt to label any utterance as "hate speech."

Reality checks are not only about mental "virgin" births, "grossly offensive" hell's angels, or anger-producing gauntlets to free speech. Those are society's indicators of our overall condition. Facing them, rather than focusing solely on our own inward state, is actually a prescription for biblical wisdom: "Wisdom cries from without; she calls aloud in the street" (Proverbs 1:20). Only ostriches appear to ward off reality by burying their heads in the sand.

Actress Joanne Woodward said in a 1989 interview: "It's not death I fear, it's reality - which means for me that I will never accomplish or learn or be all that I wish I could be before the final curtain.Having it all is just not possible."

We are all looking for all, but introspection is not taking us there. Remaining cocooned is only possible for a season, and then we either emerge or die. If we want ourselves and our nation to end 2014 better than we ended 2013, we must do the reality checks now.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at