There is a perception that all politicians are professional at is lying. It has forced me to step back and consider the role of truth in politics and in our larger society. The culture of deception, half-truth, innuendo, and outright lies is not exclusively the purview of professional politics. It’s time for us to take a hard look in the mirror.
We live in a society where we are bombarded by a constant barrage of “non-truths”. Look around at our everyday lives. We accept lying in politics because it is forced on us in so many other aspects and areas in our lives. We have become desensitized to the absence of truth. We see commercials on TV, billboards and in magazine which lie to us. We turn on the news and watch famous people who lie to us. We routinely lie to one another to hide the message behind the message.
Some lies are larger in scope then others but they all pose the exact same moral and ethical quandary.
“No dear, your ass doesn’t look fat in those jeans…” (translation: “Yikes, when did she get so fat?”)
“It’s so huge!!!” (translation: “Holy mini pecker batman!”)
“I was at John’s house watching the game…” (translation: “Johnny and I were drinkin’ beers at the nudie bar.”)
“Angelina and Brad are just good friends…” (translation: “Angelina and Brad are worried about their ‘images’ so they are going to deny that they are in a relationship for as long as possible…”
“My fellow Americans, the evil-doers that committed these evil attacks on our just and pure society will be made to pay…” (translation: “My first year as President hasn’t been going all that well, so we are going to whip this tired old story for as long as we can…”)
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky…” (translation: “I am an ego maniac who never takes responsibility for my actions…”)
But I guess that is the handle, isn’t it. We are a society that is afraid of taking responsibility for our own beliefs. We assume that everyone else is stupid and so they can and should be manipulated to see things from our own perspective. That is certainly the case in politics. Bill Clinton didn’t feel bad about having an affair, he felt bad about being caught.
We will continue to receive egocentric mediocrity as long as we expect perfection. We will get leaders who are unable to admit flaw when we place our leaders on a pedestal and expect perfection. People criticized flawed leader like Senator John Kerry for seeing the world in shades of gray. I would rather have a slightly bland politician with gray scale vision like Kerry or Senator Arlen Specter than filthy rotten liars like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan.
I did a little research on the notion of truth. I found that there is a whole school of philosophy dedicated to truth. Apparently what is true and what is false are open to multiple interpretations, but I would boil it down to this: those who actively deceive know what they are doing. Unless they are sociopaths they know in their hearts what is true and what is false.
Until we take the truth seriously it will never be a central virtue in our society. In outlining the Code of Chivalry, 19th Century French historian Leon Gautier stated: “Thou shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.”
This doesn’t just go for our elected officials. Just because their lies are on a grander scale does not put us in the place of feeling some sort of moral superiority. A lie is a lie, is a lie, is a lie. I will end by quoting Master Yoda: “Size matters not, judge you me by my size? And well you should not!”
The truth matters!