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nation of liarsWe were preparing the annual financial report to the parish the other day, and the tricky part of the debate was how to present complex details in a simple way that was not misleading or open to misinterpretation.

I commented that we must aim for complete transparency, at which point a member of the committee observed, “The problem with that, Father, is that as soon as you declare that you are being completely transparent everyone wonders what you are hiding.”

Indeed. So we distrust the salesman who sidles up and says surreptitiously, “Listen, for you I’m going to do this special deal….” We worry why a church banner needs to declare, “All are Welcome!” And when someone says, “I’m going to be completely honest with you.…” we start sniffing out the lie.

I suspect that Donald Trump is going to win this election, and the main reason he will win is because the American people are desperate for a leader they believe will speak the truth. Mr. Trump is a deeply flawed and, in my opinion, a dangerous candidate. However, what trait do his followers most admire him for? They think he “tells it like it is.”

It doesn’t matter if he is another lying politician. What matters is that his followers believe that he is a straight shooter, a man with guts who is not afraid to speak the truth. They believe he speaks the truth when he calls global warming a fraud. They believe he speaks the truth when he claims to uncover government corruption. They believe he tells it like it is when he speaks out about immigration, gun control, and trade deals that are bad for working Americans.

Donald Trump’s genius is that he is a salesman, and the best salesmen do not try to sell you their product. They first figure out what you want, and then they sell you that. Mr. Trump understands what the customers want and he’s giving it to them, and what they want is someone they can trust to tell the truth.

Whether what he says is true or not, really does not matter. What matters is that a large number of Americans trust him. Likewise, they do not trust Mrs. Clinton. She could read them the King James Version of the Bible wearing a hat, and they would smell a rat.

Why are we in such a situation? Because we have been lying for a long time. We like to blame the lying politicians, and to be sure the majority of the politicians are liars, but we cannot let ourselves off the hook. We get the leaders we deserve.

The fact is, we’re a nation of liars. We lie about our military adventures overseas. We lie about our conquest of nations. We lie about the economy. We lie about world poverty. We lie about pollution. We lie about big banks. We lie about abortion. We lie about astronomical rates of incarceration. We lie about pornography. We lie about gun crime. We lie about creeping euthanasia. We lie about immigration.

We are a nation of liars because we as individuals are liars. We lie about our looks. We like about our age. We lie about our income. We lie about our taxes. We lie about our achievements. We lie about our gender identity. We lie about our faults. We lie about our sins. We lie about most everything.

We have become a Pontius Pilate nation asking cynically, “What is Truth?” as we wash our hands of a difficult decision.

Consequently, we have drifted into a quagmire of falsehoods. We are “on the edge of a grimpen where there is no foothold.” We are dancing on quicksand and tiptoeing through a minefield. No one trusts anyone, and when we get into such a state of distrust, the person who seems to be most honest and transparent is the one we distrust the most. If he seems too good to be true, he must be too good to be true.

There are two ways forward when faced with such a morass. The first and most frightening way is the way of tyranny. When a people are desperate for someone to tell them the truth they are likely to follow the person who lies in the most convincing way. This is why Mr. Trump bullied his way to the nomination and will probably bully his way to the White House.

The people are clearly not interested in facts, experience, and rational arguments. They don’t trust the leaders who have presented them with facts, data, experience, and rational arguments in the past because they have used “facts, data, and rational arguments” as the best way to lie, cheat, steal, and kill.

The people want what they think is the truth, and they want it super-sized. They want it loud. They want it with backbone. They want it acerbic, assertive, and even aggressive if need be. They would be happier with a truthful tyrant than a lying libertarian.

There is, of course, another way.

That way is for an army of ordinary men and women of integrity not just to speak the truth, but to live the truth. It is no mistake that the One who said, “I AM the Truth” also said, “I AM the Way and I AM the Life” because truth is not simply a verifiable statement. It is a way and a life.

It is a way of life.

No matter what the future holds, this second way is the way that will prevail, even if first its progress is halting and slow. This way and this life will prevail against the lies not only because it is practical and possible, but most of all because it it true.

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9 replies to this post
  1. “They believe he speaks the truth when he calls global warming a fraud. ”

    And I agree. The people pushing global warming the most aggressively all have that “Used car salesman” quality about them, meaning the louder they shout about the “Truth” of their product, the more they really give off the sense that it’s bunkum.

  2. I think the difference between Trump and Hillary is that his flaws are all on the surface, and his supporters know that. Hillary’s flaws are also known, but they’re kept locked in a crypt somewhere that the press refuses to go. Thus we never hear about the victims of her husband’s predatory behavior, the suspicious goings on with their foundation, the way she handled Benghazi, and dozens of other nefarious activities that are all in her past.

  3. Mrs. Clinton has earned distrust over a long public career, with Mr. Trump at least a chance for something better appears possible. Actually,he appears to be the less flawed candidate.

  4. What are you talking about. You indict an entire country in a public forum as if you have done some massive survey which has brought you toward the truth. You use Pontius pilot, a member of the establishment as an example of the rest of us. Do not indict all for the sins of the few. You comment that the people want Trump because they think he tells the truth and then accuse the people of being liers. You accuse Trump of lying when there is video evidence that he has been saying the same things for twenty years or more now. You tarnish everyone like this with broad sweeping statements and you make yourself part of the same group who has been attacking us and denigrating and tearing us and our culture apart….physician heal thyself.

  5. Lying is part of the human condition. Everyone lies. Americans didn’t invent dishonesty, and it might be hyperbole(or dishonesty) to dismiss a nation of over three hundred million as being a nation of liars. I’m pretty sure I can find dishonest Germans, Englishman, Russians, Japanese, or Italians.

  6. When there is a compelling reason not to buy (or fall for) something, one sales strategy is to avoid bringing it up. You would think that Mrs. Clinton and the media would be at the top of the list of anyone trying to make a case for American mendacity. I don’t know whether the idea of the Republicans having been bullied by Trump is laughable or sad. Since he entered the race, The GOP leaders have been attacking him on his sensible position on immigration, with the media pack in support. It’s not a case of Trump supporters being taken in. When the alternative is doom, there is no choice.

  7. I can’t help but think that part of the problem is that our public discussion has devolved to the point that anyone who doesn’t agree with the listener is simply assumed to be lying, covering something up, being deliberately deceptive – no room for honest mistakes, let alone coherent reasoning to a different conclusion. It’s too much effort (i.e., takes more than a sound bite or graphic meme post) to try to truly understand the other person’s argument, let alone to resolve differences with reason and compassion. It’s easier to accuse and condemn than communicate, and more comfortable to sit on one’s high horse than to tend the garden.

  8. Oh my, how some commenters have a hard time when their idols are found flawed. Your emperor has no clothes. Trump is the sad result of 30 years of at least a certain party pitching to the basest instincts of the electorate, an electorate which loves to have their misbegotten beliefs reinforced. The cynical result is that mainstream politicians too often build a career on lies in order to gain power and privilege.

  9. Trump says that NAFTA was a fraud and it is a way to create more billionaires at the expense of the
    American worker. Is that a lie? He says that the Bush Doctrine where the United States takes it on itself to change the regimes of countries we don’t like is a complete disaster for those countries and for us. He says that the hysteria surrounding political correctness and multiculturalism is a smoke screen for an oligarchy that wants to enrich itself at the expense of the American worker. Trump won this election because he had an actual message that he could show up an deliver drawing tens of thousands at his rallies whereas Clinton is on the side of the oligarchy and will not even pretend to be otherwise. Clinton had no message and her husband would complain at her campaign meetings that she was ignoring a group to which Trump was making an appeal and why did she not have a message for these dispossessed people too? Clinton had no message. Trump had a message. Clinton did not even set foot in Wisconsin. So what if we are a nation of liars? We are electing a president and not a Pope. Trump is flawed, just like the people who elected him.

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