Liars dipping into America’s cookie jar

R evelations 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Amidst current political mayhem, the issue that cuts to the heart of our humanness is the issue of lying. Watching the media and the hoards of loud, obnoxious political experts lambaste the president for lying about having a little sex on the side has made me ashamed. We live in a world of lies, and many of us, supposed Christians, have the nerve and stupidity to waste our time and millions of dollars shaking our collective fingers at the president, while we go about our own phony lives feeling so righteous. It’s just appalling.
In other words, in so many ways, we are all … living a lie. We live many lies. We can condemn the president in such a way as to be just shy of stoning him in the public square, but easily forget about the lies we tell to our bosses, spouses, children and friends. I want every homosexual to come out of the closet now. I want to see every single person who has ever stolen candy from a jar, or paper clips from their place of employment, to stand up and raise their hands.
What motivates people? Politicians claim public service is what drives them to reach for the top. And while they drive around in their expensive cars and eat lunch at private restaurants for members only, I wonder what they really think when they drive through the streets of Washington and nearly run over a homeless person digging McDonalds out of a trash can.
How about that latest operation you just had? Did you really need it? How can you really know? Did anyone take pictures of your insides, show you the actual lesion that had to be removed, and get your permission before doing so?
Parents: When Dad fought in World War II, or even Vietnam, did anyone see him hide behind a mutilated body when the shelling began? When he sprayed bullets over a hut and kept on running, how many children died inside? Mom’s been having an affair with a guy from work for more than three years, but her kids will never know. And mom will never know her track-star son has been smoking pot since he was 11. Mom wouldn’t even think to ask her daughter if she’s ever had sex, and her daughter sure isn’t going to blurt it out. Babies are brought into the world via a stork, carrying them in a white handkerchief.
The tooth fairy might have something to say when it comes to lies and truths. In fact, let’s take a walk down to Joe’s bar, where the tooth fairy hangs out with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Paul Bunyon (with his Blue Ox parked outside) and a whole assortment of mythical characters, from Greek gods to Disney characters. Tell me, Santa Claus, tell me about the reindeer. Tell me where the presents come from, and then tell me what Christmas is all about. Meanwhile, I’m going to go ask all those people who are on Christmas vacation what waterskiing, gambling and eating in fancy restaurants has to do with celebrating the birth of Christ.
Lying and deception, including self-deception, are so common in our culture, they are a part of everyday life. Children live in a fantasy world fostered by both parents and television. If a kid didn’t believe in the tooth fairy, or worse yet, Santa Claus, we’d think something was wrong. We would want to set them straight. It’s un-American not to believe in Santa Claus. In that case, according to certain Muslim extremists, not only is Santa Claus a lie, but so too, is Christianity.
The best illustration of when lying is, in fact, justifiable, is in the case of the Jews and Germans during World War II. I was once asked, “If you knew that Jews were being slaughtered, and a German knocked on your door while you were hiding a Jew, would you tell the German?” I thought to myself, that depends if I’m pro-German or pro-Jew. For the Germans, being caught in that lie would’ve meant certain death. For the Jews, I would be a hero and a saint. For me, I would do it to protect an innocent life.
In the case of a woman living in fear of a physically abusive husband, turning to another man for comfort is something I would find hard to condemn.
Extreme forms of lying fall into what is called pseudologia fantastica, a complex, mixed-bag of fact and fantasy. Some people were beat as children, but they’ll never admit it. Alcoholics are really good at hiding their addiction. If you’ve ever been to New York, watching workers on Wall Street buy pot and cocaine off the street during their lunch hours makes one take a serious look at America’s so-called drug policy.
It is amazing what people will do to appear more intelligent than they really are. After all, no one wants to look stupid. It’s not that hard to increase your grade point average by a few points, because no one is going to see your transcript anyway.
Criminals are well-known for changing their stories from interrogation to the plea bargain stage. And no lawyer in his or her right mind will ever pursue a perjury charge, simply because of the near impossibility of proving it. Witnesses protect their loved ones. Bribery cases are in the millions, and guys giving girls flowers are often suspected of performing a form of bribery.
Lying is tricky, especially when not telling something is not necessarily considered a true lie — there’s an oxymoron for you. The military operates on the principle: “On a need-to-know basis.” The CIA could not possibly reveal all the truths locked in classified files. What goes on behind closed doors is as American as sex on the side and the paparazzi who take pictures of celebrities.
There’s nothing that drives a reporter crazy with lust more than finding out the dirt on someone. But scoophounds aside, it’s a journalist’s job to seek the truth. Journalists are not so altruistic as the codes they supposedly live by. Reporters lie to their spouses and girlfriends. They pad expense accounts and make up facts to compensate for weak stories.
And then there are the magical storytellers who can convince us of just about anything. They do it with scary movies when we’re young (and not so young). Don’t forget Grandpa. No one can spin yarns like Grandpa. From walking to school in the winter with no shoes, to throwing a grenade into an enemy bunker and saving the lives of his buddies, who would ever dare to say Grandpa was lying?
Psychologists and psychiatrists have much to say about how far people will go to deal with anxiety. Whether from a desperate need to conform, or from chemically thwarted neurons with inexplicable causes, lying is not an easy thing to prove.
A husband will lie to his cancerous and bedridden wife about secretly seeing a hooker, because he dares not put his needs above hers and doesn’t want her to feel inadequate. Lying is pain avoidance.
No religious leader will offer atheism as an alternative, even if God cannot be proven by hard, cold evidence. It is still a joke to refer to God as a woman or other minority. If God were to ever appear, especially as a woman or an African-American, the truth would surely kill the masses.
Back in the 1950s, psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel proposed that if it’s possible to make someone believe untrue things as the truth, then it is also possible to make someone believe that true things are untrue.
Rape victims will not come forward because of the embarrassment and chastisement they will get from family and friends: How could they (the victim) allow such a thing to happen? What did they do to egg the rapist on? So the victim becomes a liar.
False accusations are a regular part of politics: It’s called mudslinging. Stretching percentages or misquoting the opponent is not designed to tell the truth, but to make the opponent look more like a liar.
When someone tells a telemarketer that the person they asked for is not the person they are speaking to, they are lying. But telemarketing is horrible, so the lying is justified.
A prisoner of war does not wantonly offer the whereabouts of secret military installations in the name of telling the truth. Telling the truth, in this case, means the death of fellow patriots. Children lie to avoid punishment. Lying covers up failure and shame. Lies lift up those with low self-esteem.
No, I am not having an affair. No, I did not cheat on the test. No, I did not take the neighbor’s shovel. No, my mother was never on Prozac. Ask anyone in America. Ask anyone in the world. They’ll all say the same thing: No, I did not put my hand in the cookie jar.
Silence is golden. Silence … is lying.
In her book, “Truth About Lying,” Dr. Gina Graham Scott defines five types of lying: the “model of absolute integrity,” which is someone who rarely lies; the “real straight-shooter,” someone who tells white lies; the “pragmatic fibber,” who lies when the situation calls for it; the “real Pinocchio,” someone who sees no problem in lying; the “compulsive liar,” someone who is pathological — they can’t help it.
What type are you?
Jerry Flattum is the Opinions Page editor. He write once a week. He welcomes comments at [email protected]