Guest Post: Lying to Ourselves

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Editorial commentary from James C. Nelson, Montana Supreme Court Justice (Ret.):

One of life’s lessons I learned early on was that lying doesn’t cut it. My parents would not tolerate it in any form. Being caught in a lie resulted in a mouth washing with Ivory soap, and, even worse, having to face the person lied to with a confession and apology.

Along my journey, I have become increasingly convinced that truthfulness solves more problems than it creates. Honesty, it has been said, is not only the best policy, but the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.

Thus, it is disconcerting to witness the moral relativism that is sweeping our Country—a nation, according to its founders, to be one grounded in declared and self-evident “truths.”

To be sure, lying as a societal modus operandi, did not just spring into existence. Government, businesses, religious and social institutions, have lied to us from their beginnings. And, the justifications for this dishonesty are as numerous and clever as are the human minds of their creators—whether the fabrications are for “our own good,” or to protect the “bottom line” or “national security,” or have been “divinely revealed” by whatever Supreme Being one believes in, honesty and truthfulness have always had a tenuous grasp on our species.

That is a fact, not an endorsement, however.

Deception as a value has become systemic in politics. Americans have returned to a sort of tribalism, wherein alignment is to the party or the candidate and not to the truth. Indeed, most dedicated partisans will vote for a candidate even knowing that he or she is a liar. Democrats were willing to support Bill Clinton, even though he looked the Country straight in the eye and said he never had “sex” (in his perception of that term) with Monica Lewinski.

And the present occupant of the White House has by one count made over 3000 false and misleading statements since he took the “oath” of office. That works out to about 6.5 lies a day.

But, has this lack of candor hurt the Trump brand? Nope. Indeed, the President’s pathological untruthfulness is simply now accepted as Donald being Donald. Untruthfulness has become, sadly, not a vice but a virtue— a slick way to retain power, to fool the fools. Who cares?

We must! We must recognize that tribalism grounded in falsehoods erodes our claim to the truths upon which our Nation was founded. We must demand honesty from those who govern us; we must insist on truth; we must reject moral relativism; facts are facts and must be acknowledged and acted upon as such.

If we as voters and citizens cannot rely on our elected officials to tell the truth, how can we possibly vote, raise our families and manage our own lives with intelligence and principle?

The bottom line is this. If we the people do not demand truth, then we are simply lying to ourselves.

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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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