The Truth We Tell
I’ve been persuaded in recent months that the time has come for anyone capable of bearing witness to the truth, to do so — including me. My integrity isn’t rooted in who listens to me; it’s based in what I say whether anyone is listening or not.
We’re in a critical time. We need to be clear about the truth because the air around us, especially air that originates as “political commentary” from Fox News and its right-wing partners, is full of lies.
Some lies are huge (e.g., President Biden did not win the 2020 election). Some lies are just ridiculous and would, if no one believed them, be almost amusing (how about the myth that Hillary Clinton was abusing children in a Washington DC pizzeria?). Some lies nearly seem true; others are obviously false.
What concerns me most isn’t one lie or two, but the combinations of falsehoods that weave a dishonest reading of history, for example, that the rioters who killed police officers protecting the Congress on January 6 were legitimate patriot protesters.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” a claim generally attributed to Nazi Joseph Goebbels. His disciple Donald Trump translated the claim into a strategy: Lie loud. Lie often. Lie consistently.
Every American capable of speaking the truth needs to do it now. This is the time. This is the crisis. The consequences of speaking out are likely to cost some popularity, perhaps expose us to some risk. It doesn’t matter. We need to speak out now.
There are crowds who love the angry speeches delivered by Trump and his minions. They love the fury, the protection of their guns, the domination of women’s bodies, the claim that crime is a pleasure in communities of poverty, the demonstration that immigrants are worthy of abuse. My witnessing to the truth may not change a single mind in those crowds. Their motto may be, “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.”
But testifying on behalf of the truth is still the right strategy. The truth is not that hard to uncover. The parade of witnesses and deluge of evidence produced by one Congressional Committee provides truth enough for any of us. The truth isn’t mysterious, it’s just ugly. And in this setting, silence is complicity.
Perhaps one reader, one friend or cousin, is genuinely uncertain about what’s true and what’s not. I’d invite him or her to look with me at the evidence. The strange theory that promotes hate or rage isn’t justified; it’s a naked claim, and readily set aside by someone of good will. Besides, if a lie can win by noisy repetition, maybe the quiet truth can win support by our testimony.
“What you do to resist evil affects me and my resistance affects you,” wrote Fred Smith. “Every time you tell the truth when you could have lied…you are restraining the power of hopelessness and lawlessness.”
Against the flood of lies and deception stands the truth. Each time we speak the truth, says Smith, “It is one more sandbag stacked against the flood.”
This is my sandbag for today. Join me with yours and we’ll soon have a wall that, unlike the Trump debacle, is truly worth building.