Terry from Derry: Inclined to Fake


By Terry Boyle

It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived in the United States for twenty years, and still, I’ve managed to not go absolutely bonkers. While there is much that I love about being here, some things continue to whittle away my appreciation of the new home place.

When I first arrived in Chicago in 2004, I had to keep nipping at myself to believe that I was really living here. I had made a dream come true, taken that leap of faith into a new place, and made it become a reality.

It’s hard to describe those early years of living in two places. Physically, I existed in a very different place than the one that occupied my mind. I’d left Donegal, the least populated and poorest county in Ireland, and now I was in the third-largest U.S. city. 

The contrast between these two places was more than apparent. My new American life was filled with a host of new cultures co-mingling, co-existing in a way that excited me. 

I loved the ethnic diversity with its rich array of diverging histories and common desire for a shared identity.  The melting pot of humanity was alive on my doorstep in a way that I could never have imagined it to be.

Each day was another learning experience. Ordinary things such as grocery shopping became adventures. People’s approach to the most basic things here left me with a sense of bemusement.

As an Irish person, I’ve always shied away from those things that might cause embarrassment or offence, and now I was among people who didn’t shy away from potential embarrassment or confrontation but who had a certain confidence that allowed them to stand their ground. From the questioning of the bill to the admission of not having enough to pay for something, it was all so different from the mindset that I’d grown up with.

Americans, it seemed to me then, had no problem about sharing personal things about themselves. My inherent sense of privacy was continually challenged by their unabashed approach to life.

The Shame Reflex
The shame reflex that had dogged me all my life was absent in this new culture and I liked it. People would share their most intimate secrets with strangers they met in the gym or on a bus and this casual sharing of personal details proved to be refreshingly liberating.

Instead of being ashamed of who I was, I began to see that we were all the same. We’re all struggling to make sense of our lives.

The things that plagued my thoughts were no different to those around me. The freedom to talk freely about such issues enables you to feel a part of your community and not apart or alienated from it.

Things began to change for me in 2016, with the election of a person who was not worthy to be called a president. This man exposed the cracks in American society to his advantage.

Instead of unifying the country, he widened the divide. He created distrust of the media, made a circus of the political arena, and treated the judiciary as a rule of law that didn’t apply to him.

In the four years that he took control, I hated watching the news. Every new outrageous antic of his was now prime-time entertainment. His oafish crassness had us fearing the worst outcomes.

Of course, the media loves him. His most blatant disregard for anything that we hold sacred to our democracy is a money spinner for news outlets.

Hours of my time were spent on a roller coaster of possibilities. Now, I distrusted the media. The spin of what might happened, of course never happened, coupled with a man obsessed with taking center stage on every news channel was quickly wearing me down. 

The amount of anxiety I experienced during those four years was tantamount to a complete meltdown of my sanity. Once he’d left office, and inspired an insurrection, I was done with salivating over every news story.  When it came to what was newsworthy, I realized that I’d lost my sense of discernment, and it was time to get things back into perspective.

New Year’s Resolution
Now, I take each news channel with more than a grain of salt. Their obsession with the bumbling oaf is unforgivable. If they cared about the news, they would ignore his ramblings and concentrate on what is rather than what might be.  Their endless speculations are enough to make any clear-thinking person despair.

In January of this year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I’m hoping to keep and that’s to avoid sinking myself into the mire of news hype. Whenever I find my emotions hopping onto the bipolar world of fruitless media analysis, I slap myself hard and force myself to wake up to the corporate world of media spin.

So far, all is good in this world apart, this world where I stand apart from the mayhem.  This world where I’ve taken back control of my feelings instead of reacting to what I’m fed daily by sensationalist journalists who thrive on making up apocalyptic versions of the inevitable end of our democracy. 

I can’t say that I’ve become a fatalist who simply accepts things for what they are, but I plan to conserve my energy for what I can change. I have a vote. It means something to me. 

My vote may not stem the tide of popular opinion, but it’s my right to stand against the erosion of the things that I value most. I plan to use my vote to make my statement against the bully boys threatening to change this country that I loved when I first arrived here in 2004.

To read more of Terry’s columns, go HERE

Terry Boyle

Terry Boyle

*Terry is a retired professor now living in Southern California. Terry is originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, and in 2004 he took up a position at Loyola University, Chicago where he taught courses on Irish and British literature. Apart from teaching, Terry has had a number of plays produced and has recently been included in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019 - 2021 (published by The Black Spring Press). He can be reached at: [email protected]


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