Can you remember the first lie you ever told? I can’t. What I do remember is the flush accompanying the misrepresentation, the internal conflict when the admonitions of parents and priests collided with the need to shift blame, to deny guilt. Even the slightest misdirection resulted in an agony of self-reproach. I was never a good liar. I do not have a poker face. So, in the frenzy of outright lies and daily distortions that have accompanied our current crises — coronavirus, anti-violence protests, Black Lives Matter — I find my falsehood meter in daily overdrive.
As children, we believe, early on, that life is painted in black and white. On one hand, there is the Truth. On the other, Lies. But as we grow, gray intrudes. The subtle blend of self-preservation, tact, and the desire to appear better than we are, muddies the water in which we swim. These days, caught in a riptide of deliberate manipulation of truth, our society has fallen victim to distortion, divisiveness, and outright falsehood. We are casualties of a storm of untruth. Navigating is damn near impossible. It feels as though we have furled the sails and abandoned the oars, giving ourselves up to the gale of hype and hysteria surrounding every act and action. This is depressing.
Many writers have risen to the challenge of the moment, turning their creative energy into poems, stories, novels, memoirs that expose the toxic, falsehood-laden swamp of misinformation. I am tempted to paddle my craft in that direction. Politicos of every stripe, from journalists to ambassadors, have propelled their boats toward the goal of big advances and speaking tours. However, my instinct is to head in the other direction, to find clean water, less traveled, to float along with clarity, and the utter transparency of truth. Hard to do these days, right? So, I listen. I watch. I evaluate the bias that informs every pronouncement. And I wonder what happened to the child in each of us who knew the difference between truth and untruth, who fought to occupy and guard the high road between right and wrong. I wonder, too, how liars face themselves in the mirror each morning, fully aware that they are going out to proclaim a spin that pretends to be gospel. Has it really become that easy to lie?
I’m not naive. I understand that circumstance can temper revelation, that protecting sometimes requires adjustments of what is revealed and what concealed. Yet, my inner child recognizes that truth may hurt but ultimately prevails, that historical omissions build a house of sand, that only honest confrontation brings about the changes so desperately needed to lift us into tomorrow.