Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Truth Be Damned!

I feel despair for Truth. There was a time when it was almost universally honored, holding high a bright torch showing us the way out of the darkness. Today, it has been reduced to standing in a carnival crazy-house hall of mirrors, its light distorted by a million illusionary refractions leading not to the light but further into the maze of darkness. The self-serving and power-hungry, from frighteningly powerful pundits and politicians and religious leaders to pathetic little dung beetle spammers, twist and bend and torture it into whatever will serve their agenda best. Facts be damned; history be damned; logic be damned...Truth, standing forlornly somewhere in that maze, be damned.

Of course, lying is a part of human nature. Everyone lies. Lying is, at it's simplest, an understandable if less than honorable protective measure to avoid some level of real or anticipated punishment telling the truth may entail. As a child growing up gay at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental disease and gays were largely defenseless against the most outrageous forms of harassment and discrimination, lying was a necessary survival mechanism. Though even then I preferred, if possible, to evade the truth rather than flatly deny it.

But increasingly, lies have gone light years beyond the boundaries of being a form of individual self-protection to being calculatedly destructive. Lies are now routinely embraced and deliberately fostered by political and religious groups which have no other purpose than to harm others and to gain power for themselves.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Propaganda Minister, made a science of the fact that a lie, told often enough and loudly enough, becomes, in the mind of the listener, the truth. That Goebbels' spirit is alive and well today can be found not only in religious zealots like the execrable "Reverend" Fred Phelps, but in the absolutely incredible fact that nearly 20 percent--twenty percent!--of supposedly intelligent American citizens actually believe that our nation's president is a Muslim! Despite there not being one atom of credible foundation for this egregious lie, our latter-day Goebbels persist...and succeed. No matter how many times this lie is countered with the truth, people still believe the lie. And these mean-spirited hate-mongers compound their contempt by not even giving the man the dignity of referring to him by the title the American people bestowed upon him--President--but simply as "Obama."

It seems our society is increasingly reacting like a cornered, wounded animal, lashing out in its pain against anything and everything. When is the last time you ever...ever...heard the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins and their ilk offer a single positive, logical, specific suggestion on how to fix what they rant and rage against? They want to "return our country"--to what? To what specific year? Even to imply, as these wounded animals do with such frequency and ease, that there are simplistic solutions to incredibly complex problems--without their having to offer any--is a lie.

There is an old saying particularly applicable to this situation: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." When is the last time, when hearing one of these stunningly obvious lies, you said, "Hey, stop and think about what you just said. Does it really make sense?" And the tragedy is that, by not doing just that, each of us is to some degree complicit in the lie.

Truth is found through asking questions, and few people today seem to ask questions. Why should they? "Jersey Shore" is on tonight, and everyone is on tenterhooks to hear exactly how Paris Hilton (who?) will manage to weasel her way out of another drug bust. No, if I want to know something, I'll just switch on Fox News or tune in to Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh to tell me what to think.

Remember that other, irrefutable old saying, "If fifty million people believe a lie, it is still a lie." And don't just remember something about it. If you don't, who will?

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