WHAT IS A NARRATIVE?
The term "narrative" has become a regular staple of tv news programs and commentary on pretty much anything of a sociological nature these days. Online website Let's Get Wordy defines narrative as "a spoken or written account of connected events; a story."
A great example of narratives at work is the telling of the story of Jesus Christ in the gospels as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each author tells from their perspective a story of an account that they personally witnessed or heard from someone else about this man named Jesus. They each "narrate" the story, not only from from their particular viewpoint, but also to make a particular point. That's how narrative works. Not only are the facts presented, but they are presented to bring about a particular viewpoint. And like any story, a narrative can be fiction or non-fiction. However, many of the narratives that are circulated in our society today go beyond the realm of simply being fiction, which is a story designated as not true, to being outright lies, stories used to manipulate the populace for political, economic or unjust gain on behalf of those promoting the narrative.
WHY USE NARRATIVES?
The reason people use "narratives" is because they work. Listen to politicians on the campaign trail and they will tell you a story about a family who couldn't afford to pay their medical bills and you have an account that supports the narrative for reform of healthcare. Another politician will tell the story of a young teenager who was killed by police and you have an account that supports the narrative that we need police reform. Narratives are so compelling that if we buy into the narrative, everything that we hear is then sifted through that narrative in order to confirm the narrative itself, even if it objectively doesn't support the premise of the narrative. Here's an example: I recently read multiple online news articles explaining how Amy Coney Barrett is in favor of keeping women oppressed. One specific article claimed that she taught her daughters that "men are better than women."
That statement along with others in the article are attempting to create a narrative that articulates that the Supreme Court nominee is extreme and weird because she has seven children and loves being a mother more than anything else. One commentator went on to suggest that she was a "colonizer." Therefore, Ms Barrett is an imperialist, submissive, subservient, cultish, woman-hater, who believes that women are second class citizens to men. This is the creation of a "narrative."
NARRATIVES DON'T HAVE TO BE TRUE, JUST TOLD
Once the "narrative" is set, most everything else that you hear will be filtered through the prism of that narrative. Though Ms Barrett would be only the fifth woman to ever serve on the highest court in our land, to support the narrative of her subservience to men, we must dismiss that fact and submit to the premise of the narrative that she believes women should be "ruled by men." Surely she wouldn't take on such a lofty position if she believed that men were somehow superior to women and should "rule over them." Will she reject the nomination because she prefers motherhood and doesn't want to appear to rule over men as the "narrative" suggests? Of course not, but the narrative will continue to state such things because after all, "that's the narrative." It tells you why you should believe what I am telling you to believe. Narratives are powerful and can accomplish the aim of caricature of a person without regard for the truth of those claims. Narrative can often be developed, supported by and promulgated through gossip and in this social-media saturated world in which we live, the story, whether true or false can go around the world and back before truth ever raises its voice of dissent. Remember, narratives don't have to be true, they just have to be told.
SO WHO DETERMINES THE NARRATIVE?
Sean Hannity of FoxNews creates a narrative sympathetic to the President of the United States, 100% of the time. Why? Because that's his perspective. Rachael Maddow creates a narrative hateful to the President of the United States 100% of the time. Why? Because that's her perspective. They each have a narrative and a person's adoption of either narrative will ultimately determine their view of the President of the United States. They will then espouse their views of the President of the United States, unaware that they are simply supporting the narrative that they have been fed. Of course while it's easy to point fingers at media outlets and biased tv news broadcast and anchors, the rightful place for that blame is "us." We are not forced to accept the narratives presented to us but if we are lazy and unwilling to seek out truth and develop our own narratives, then we will reference news broadcasts like those I've mentioned and accept their biased narratives as our own.
CREATING A NEW NARRATIVE
Less we feel hopeless and despondent about the current narratives that are plaguing our country there is a solution. Since we are the creators of "the narrative," we can rest peacefully knowing that without regard to the story that is currently being proclaimed, we can always create a "new narrative."
Our new narrative can and should be grounded in reality and truth and it should beneficially serve all people. What if we rejected "narratives" of separation and division and only accepted and supported narratives of unity that brought us closer together? What if we stopped arguing about which "lives matter" and started living as though we loved all of those lives? Think about the "narratives" that you would need to reject in order to do that.
THE NARRATIVE OF LOVE
Narratives are indeed powerful and I have a narrative that guides my actions every day. My narrative is deeply rooted in Christian scripture and the example of Jesus Christ Himself. His ability to love without boundaries is a narrative that I not only subscribe to, but employ in my day to day interactions with others. While many choose to distance themselves or not associate with certain people because they are too conservative, too liberal, too black, too white, too rich, too poor, too prejudice or too racist, I choose to accept and love all of these people because they are too human not to. We are all human beings so lets go about our "being" and become humans "doing"--love. That's my "narrative."