Lies are disturbing from the outset. There is the understandable suggestion that little lies are acceptable, in the sense that small fabrications are executed for some social “good” (i.e. not hurting someone’s feelings).
The problem, of course, is that small fibs graduate into larger evasions. It is a not-so-funny fact that the larger the lie, the easier it is to sell. Even if you let it slide as a sort of social grace note, “That dress does not make you look heavy, sweetheart” is clearly recognized as the falsehood that it is.
Perhaps it is because hardwood truths are tough to tackle that we allow the big lies to slide. When the Bush administration foisted “weapons of mass destruction” on the American public as an excuse to send young men into peril—our young men, our fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, remember—we accepted the lie because we wanted to appear “strong.” But what sort of strength tosses its scruples aside so easily? The lack of integrity, the failure to dig up the actual facts hangs around like the worst-smelling albatross and diminishes our standing in the world.
Big lies are perverse. There are those who would have you believe that Jews own the world, when the simple fact is that they, as a race, hew closely to education, examination and hard work. Holding on to that big lie takes away from our credibility.
There are those who continue to profess that the Civil War (the “War Between the States” in the Southern lexicon) was about states’ rights and not about slavery. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, and holding on to that big lie precludes any hope of reconciliation.
Big lies have big consequences. In the last national election we gave away our souls so that an insecure, well-practiced-in-the-art, lying misogynist could declare himself a “winner” despite plenty of prominent evidence to the contrary. And when a sitting United States Senator can get away with flatly stating that abortion accounts for 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s resources—when the actual number is three percent—that ought to be counted as an outrage of the highest order! The next thing you know, someone’s going to try and tell us that it is to our benefit not to have universal health care.
But little lies have consequences too (not the least of which is that they, eventually, enable the larger ones). Frank Bidart is a gay American poet who grew up in California during World War II. Ponder this, from his 2013 poem “Queer”:
Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything. . . .
But lie to yourself, what you will
lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.
The inability to be open and honest is as debilitating, in the long run, as not eating. It is a corrosive (and ultimately deadly) tactic. There is no good that comes from its poison. When you accept the lie for yourself, as Bidart suggests, you become one with the liar and you move away from your own true self. There is no greater abdication than to not fulfill your personal destiny, that singular imprint that exists nowhere else in this wide and intriguing universe. If there is sin in this world, that must be the greatest, the dismissive discard of the individual.
We must not ever let that lie win.
©2017 Richard Paul Hinkle