A friend of mine recently said he asked his teenager when it wasn’t okay to lie. The response was -“When you’re in court .” A reasonable answer. At a minimum it sets a foundation for honesty. Many years ago my boss told me I needed to lie about an issue with one of my employees. I asked him if it would then also be okay to lie to him, since he had encouraged that for someone I supervised. He said no, I shouldn’t lie to him. I quit the position soon after.
So now we fast forward to the Spring of 2019 and I wonder what we as a population of 300 + million people think about being constantly lied to. It seems that it is in vogue to be lied to by certain members of our elected officials. In one instance the total number of lies has been counted in the thousands. And yet there are those who simply respond, “They all do it.” And maybe to some degree that is true. But I can’t help but wonder why we accept that there’s nothing wrong with being lied to by our government. Who else do we so readily accept not being told the truth?
My first real experience with this form of leadership came when I was in my early twenties and a soldier in Vietnam. This country was nightly shown the images of young soldiers being brought home in body bags, while at the same time being told that we were winning the war. As the war drug on, the lies became more frequent and more absurd. In the end we simply quit the war, after 55,000 Americans and countless millions of North and South Vietnamese were killed. We accepted “Peace with honor.” We flew our people back to the states and left the people of South Vietnam to fend for themselves after the North Vietnamese took over. There is now irony that we are on such good terms with the country that defeated us. I guess our memories are short when we get to buy cheap junk made by others. Another irony is we were told we had to go to Vietnam to prevent Communism from spreading. Last I checked, Vietnam is a communist country.
But Vietnam was only a step along the road. Certainly before and after that we have often been lied to. Let’s not forget the Iran-Contra tales; and should we continue to give the Bush-Cheney folks a free pass on the certainty of those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? But what the heck, just another little war to get stuck with. Anyone want to take a stab at why we really went to war in Iraq and have been in Afghanistan for more than a decade? Does anyone have a clear idea why?
So I ask, why do we so readily accept the daily lies? I have a friend that is a deep to the bone supporter of the new administration. He once said to me “I’ve never in my life been more proud to be an American.” And I’m glad he’s proud, but I’ve never heard him say why, except that the economy is good and he wants to protect our borders. Another person I know, a fine church going Christian, told me she doesn’t care about a leader’s moral life or about lies. I didn’t have the courage to ask what she did care about.
So in the end, maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Maybe we shouldn’t expect our elected officials to be honest. Maybe we shouldn’t hold them to the same standard that we hold our young children. Maybe it’s no more important to believe that our democracy has been attacked by a foreign government then it is to believe our grandson when he says he didn’t eat the cookie before dinner. Call me skeptical, but when someone has to tell me over and over again to trust them, I usually get a little bit concerned about what’s going to follow.
“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it the second time.”
Go Well, David