There is beauty in truth even if it’s painful. Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak. But lies only strengthen our defects. They don’t teach anything, help anything, fix anything or cure anything. Nor do they develop one’s character, one’s mind, one’s heart or one’s soul. (Jose. N. Harris)
Once while writing an examination as part of a hiring process for a large insurance company, I encountered the question “Have you ever lied?” with only a “yes” or “no” response permitted. Under pressure of whatever...time, a foreign country, a profound insecurity about what I was even doing there, and able to “see” that it was not my practice to lie, I answered “no”…and never heard from the insurance company again.
The most dangerous kind of liar is the person who lies to him or herself. The rest only lie to others. I am glad the insurance company wanted nothing to do with me, not because of my answer, but because I could never have accepted the required set of perceptions/beliefs/”values” and practices that drive large corporations to generate profits. By playing on fears (mostly unreasonable fears) and manipulating their clients and their prospective clients into a transaction involving the acquisition of a product or service that, by itself, is smaller than portrayed in the offer, and whose need it meets is likely smaller than envisioned by the client. Often, even, the corners(tone) of integrity that sustain any “trusty” building have been so “rounded” that the building’s integrity is now suspect.
In the seemingly more important attention paid to the immediate “need” (protecting one’s reputation, distracting an accuser, impressing an authority figure, avoiding a charge/conviction, or simply needing to demonstrate power) we have all dissembled, told only a half-truth, or rationalized our way out of having to confront the bald, bold, and often unpleasant, or perhaps unbearable truth. Even professionals, like medical doctors, have to make ethical and moral judgements about how much truth to tell….another variation on the premise of telling the truth. “Do we tell this patient that he has only a week to live?” could be a question that easily passes from one physician to another, given their respective “read” of the evidence in the diagnosis. And the question becomes even more murky if the time left to live is more indeterminate. (There is evidence that, in the not so distant past, doctors learned that the “raw” truth often resulted in shortened life spans, so they have had to reconsider that approach.)
I once listened as a friend unloaded on his family doctor who told him he would not survive the pancreatic cancer that had invaded his body, as he insisted, “I am going to beat this thing, John, regardless of what Howie told me!” Knowing the “Howie” of whom he spoke, (also my family doctor), I suddenly felt deep empathy and compassion for both men, the doctor who was authentically carrying out his professional, ethical and moral responsibilities, and my friend, for the prospect he faced, without real hope of surviving.
Another story: a former friend is hospitalized for what the psychiatrist has diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder, and for which he has prescribed medications for depression, anxiety. Not fully knowing about the range of treatments for the disorder, I ask, innocently, “Are there any other ways for you to be treated?” (always seeking alternatives to pharmaceutical remedies, if feasible and available, and in this instance, wondering about increased exposure to “light” even enhanced electric light). My hat was sitting on the bed, where the patient was seated, leaning on his “table” as we talked. He turned his head toward my hat, and without uttering a word at first, punched the hat with an intensity that shocked me, as he exclaimed, “Damn! You can see right through me!” completely confused, I returned home to find a phone message from his then spouse with these words, “Don’t you ever visit or speak to “X” again!” It was months later that I learned the ‘friend’ was deeply experiencing a profoundly troubling experience, as he struggled with his sexual orientation. He only later “came out” and I discerned that he was not being “treated” for SAD, but rather for the emotional turbulence of reconciling with a new awareness of an authentic gay sexuality. Did he “lie” to the psychiatrist? Did he misrepresent the truth to his then spouse?
These questions do not permit easy and glib answers. They are part of a human dynamic that finds each of us, at various times, struggling with the “truth” and how to cope with its implications.
Growing up in a family in which physical and emotional abuse were a regular occurrence, I knew, without doubt, that the “family truth” must never escape my lips, and it never did. However, concealing the truth must also be considered when one reflects on “lying” given the kind of protective covering family loyalty too often demands. And yet, were I to have disclosed the fullness of the truth, the only remedy would have been the social agencies, and I would probably have been removed and placed in a foster home, separating me from the other parent whose support I needed. Keeping the truth hidden, along with the details that were buried in that “attic trunk,” nevertheless, required the kind of unpacking that most adults of dysfunctional homes have to go through. So when is the truth fully revealed and when are we fully capable of comprehending its implications, as gift, not merely as dark pain?
We are witnessing a series of political sequels, in the current American political landscape, saturated, it would seem, by lies, cover-ups and dissemblings, along with the required “lawyering” of statements to protect the “innocent” whose “guilt” must be protected until it is finally proven. And, naturally, in a country where laws fill tombs and memory sticks, every moment in which a public figure fails to disclose the whole truth and nothing but the truth has become justification for firing. Engraved in the North American memory are the image of Bill Clinton, telling the world, ‘I did not have sex with that woman, Monika Lewinsky!” only to subsequently face impeachment. General Mike Flynn is no longer the Head of National Security for failing the “truth” test in his testimony that he spoke to no Russians. Currently, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions is facing rising pressure for his failure (refusal/resorting to lying?) to disclose his conversations with the Russian Ambassador in the midst of the recent presidential campaign. Today, we learn that Jared Kushner also had conversations in Trump tower with that same Russian Ambassador to the United States, in mid-campaign.
This series of stonewalls, lies(?) is certainly not the first to be visited upon an electorate. Yet, there is a kind of toxicity that is barnacled to this drama, now being viewed by the whole world. As one observer put it to me today, “If Trump were the president of Bolivia, we would be laughing at him! However, he is the President of the United States and we cannot laugh!”
Underlying the distrust more and more people are experiencing about the American administration is the proclivity to lie. And there is no end in sight!
Overlaying the garden of specific lies, omissions, cover-ups and distractions are statements about the “honesty” of his “people” by the president. Words like “witch hunt”* and ad hominums like “hypocrite” (Schumer) and “lying” Pelosi, just like “crooked” Hillary, amount to little more than “vengeful jabs, hollow and vacuous as mere ‘shock-and-awe’ World Wide Wrestling phantom ‘slams’ to the mat of the opponent.
Simultaneously, while Trump beats his character assassination ‘drum’ (against his opponents), the news media feeds up a litany of specific omission, lies, distortions by the “trump team” in a counterpoint of both style and content. So while Trump himself is not being directly accused of lying, the narrow and strict purportedly objective reporting of “lies” could and may well get lost in the fog of Trump’s percussion.
Dictioinary.com defines “lie” this way: