People sometimes ask me why I don’t write novels, or a screenplay. “You must have seen and heard a lot of strange things over your career,” they say. Well, yes, I have, which is why I probably have been ruined for fiction.
The fact of the matter is this: Real life is far more strange, weird and surprising than anything you could make up.
Think about most of the major stories of our time. Had you written dramatic adaptations of them before they happened, you would have gotten rejection letters or been thrown out of the studio.
There is a vast amount of Cold War fiction and docudramas, but to my knowledge nobody ever wrote a novel suggesting that the Soviet Union would quietly go out of business one New Year’s Eve like a bankrupt hardware store—which is what happened.
If you were writing a novel about a President of the United States caught in an affair, you would make his lover a glamorous spy, actress or one of Washington’s top lobbyists—not a run-of-the-mill neurotic intern.
But life is stranger than fiction, and so it came as no great shock that Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick resurfaced yesterday as part of a panel of former congresspersons who are being paid to listen to people talk about extraterrestrial life on earth.
Kilpatrick, who represented Detroit until she was defeated in a primary three years ago, will get $20,000 plus expenses for sitting at the National Press Club for five days and hearing people talk about the possibility of aliens among us.
She doesn’t have to write a report or do any work, just sit there with four other former members of Congress, one of whom, former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, was widely suspected of being from another planet during his time in Congress.
The money is evidently being put up by a mysterious character named Stephen Bassett, who intends to film the proceedings and use them as b-roll for a documentary he plans called “Truth Embargo.“
Bassett, who describes himself as the founder of a UFO lobbying group, believes deeply in the existence of flying saucers, and wrote a book saying that U.S. presidents are covering up the evidence.
I don’t know how Bassett got the money to do this. Once, when asked about his background on the TV show, he had a screaming meltdown. Nor do I know if former Congresswoman Kilpatrick knows or cares about it.
It is possible that thinking about extraterrestrials is a good way to keep her mind off that her ex-husband and her son, Kwame Kilpatrick, are awaiting sentencing on their felony convictions. However, I do have a problem with marketing someone’s prestige.
Harry Truman left the presidency 60 years ago basically without any financial assets at all. He was offered many lucrative figurehead positions, but turned every one down, saying “the presidency of the United States is not for sale.”
Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case with these five former members of Congress. Public service should be about more than the right to chase down every loose dollar you can find. It seems that’s something that the Kilpatrick family still hasn’t learned.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.