Wednesday, July 3, 2013



 By Kathleen Hoy Foley


If you already see the parallels between the three—Paula Deen, Lance Armstrong and Kumbaya—call me because you should be writing this and I could be off somewhere contemplating important stuff like how to keep cat hair under control so I don’t ever have to vacuum again.  If you simply don’t get what Paula, Lance and Kumbaya have in common…well…you’re here, why not hang around for a few minutes?  Not that I’m promising any grand revelations, you understand.  And, oh, if you’re easily offended, leave now because I can’t promise to refrain from snarky.  In fact, I’m can’t promise anything.  No, that’s not exactly correct.  I’m promising eight hundred words, give or take.  And Paula, Lance, Kumbaya, and big fat lies are on my mind… 

Ohhh…Paula Deen…my fantasy of the perfect mama—squeezingly plump, ready with a full-on, enthusiastic bear hug, and hot-from-the-oven cinnamon buns.  Flip on the Food Network and there she was supplying emotional lard to the tired and downtrodden with a lick of sass and lots of butter.  And nobody needs butter and hot-from-the-oven cinnamon buns served up with a thick southern draw more than the tired and downtrodden.  Paula Deen had that southern coo thing down cold.  “Come sit down, darlin’.  Look what I made for y’all.” 

Sure, at any moment Paula Deen’s diabetes could’ve sent in the gangrene and pretty soon a surgeon high on sugar could’ve been sawing off one or two of her feet.  Oh, who cares about all that?  And never mind Ms. Deen’s dream of catering an antebellum wedding reception replete with strapping black men in starched shirts and pressed tuxedoes serving high southern cuisine to white guests.  It’s so romantic reminiscing how her great granddaddy’s slaves were treated just like family, isn’t it?  Except for the manacles…  Oh, don’t let’s think about that.  Pass the fried butter, sweetie pie.  We can’t bother ourselves with the truth…it’s so…so…unappetizing.  Yes, it took me some time to figure out that “best dishes” Paula Deen was just a big fat lie. 

Lance Armstrong…geez, if I hadn’t actually seen the words, I cheated, fall directly out of his mouth, I wouldn’t have believed it.  Even when I heard him confess, I still couldn’t believe it.  After all, I believed in Lance Armstrong.  He was a tenacious bulldog who not only bit cancer in the ass, but converted it into raw, honed muscle, hammered it into a titanium chariot, and harnessed its energy to conquer the Pyrenees, dehydration, cramps, and exhaustion to win the Tour de France over and over.  And while he was at it, damn, didn’t he spit in the eye of every naysayer who dared question his integrity?  What an inspiration!  Drag out the rusty Schwinn, peddle mile after miserable mile through headwinds and sweltering heat lugging an extra sixty five pounds of middle-age girth, and call me Blanche. 

But there he was, revealing himself as just another gazillionaire coward.  Lance Armstrong, the super star athlete, was no more than a fraud, a con artist.  He drugged, blood doped, cheated, threatened every living soul around him into silence, ruined the reputations of anyone who dared question him, and sued those who dared speak, while tallying up his mega fortunes.  Lance Armstrong was no hero.  He was an arrogant menace in spandex.  And he never gently cradled childhood cancer victims in his strong, brave arms after dismounting his bike, like I thought either.  Lance Armstrong: one big fat lie. 

So is Kumbaya—you probably already know this.  But I actually believed that we could all hold hands and sing the world into a better place.  Kumbaya is a big fat lie, I know that now.  But back in the days of folk music masses, Marriage Encounter, and the Charismatic Movement—raucous praising, speaking-in-tongues, and holy roller Catholics—holding hands, swaying and singing hymns was touted by ‘spiritual authorities’ as the path to all that was good.  And I bought it.  No!  I devoured it.  Kumbaya: Joy! Happiness! Peace!  Sing more.  Praise more.  Smile more.  Do more.  I hugged strangers.  I drank communion wine from chalices slobbered on by hundreds.  (Give me a moment while I cringe…eww…)  And, oh, that darkness that haunted me?  Easy as Praise Jesus it away.  Kumbaya didn’t fail.  I did.  Only that was just another big fat lie.    

Call me gullible, but I believed the big fat lies of Paula Deen, Lance Armstrong and Kumbaya.  I needed to be coddled in the embrace of fairytales: endless butter, endless energy, and endless soothing hymns to pamper the dream.  The luring offer of a straight, easy path to ‘feel-good’ was like an addictive drug.  I could skim along the surface of happy if I ignored disease, covert racism, and hid the dark agony of sexual abuse under pretty hymns and pure baloney.  It half worked for a long time.   

But truth has this way of speaking—in my case, exploding.  It’s an intense force of nature that pushes through concrete, past closed eyes, into aching hearts, and eats away at carefully constructed, big fat lies—and an added plus for me, it chiseled away that extra sixty-five pounds.  Of course, truth doesn’t concern itself with time or gracious manners.  That was news to me.  I bet it was news to Paula Deen and Lance Armstrong too, who probably figured they could out run it, or at least, forever ignore it.  Which it turns out, is the biggest, fattest lie ever.  

As for Kumbaya?  It’s a nice song and all, but you won’t find me humming it while I’m praying away the cat hair.  Just hand me the damn vacuum cleaner.