President Pinocchio

~a column by Colleen’Brien

When someone you know lies – not just once, but on a regular basis – what do you think? Oh, I’ll hang out with this guy, should be fun. What difference does it make? We all tell little white lies.

What’s it mean when that person who lies says that other people are the liars? Doesn’t that make the other people truth-tellers by default?

At some point in adulthood most of us leave liars in the dust because it’s too much work to decipher them. We don’t have the time to figure out if what they say is true or false.

Right now I know that someone who has power over me and situations in my life lies regularly. There looms an amorphous dread . . . as in, if I can’t trust the person who can dump my Social Security, my healthcare, my belief in what my reporters are telling me, I need to cast around to figure out who or what to trust. Who needs this kind of daily dose of distrust and dread?

Right now he’s lying about the ban on Muslims: “It’s working out very nicely,” he said. “You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

Oh, it’s not a ban on Muslims, he says. He tells us it’s just a ban on a few Muslim countries; except for the minority Christians who live there and might want to come here. Is this not religious discrimination on both sides of the coin?

Does he think we’re blind and stupid?

As the daily dose of lies continues I feel like I have a low-grade fever. I don’t look sick, and I’m functional. I’m not burning up with it, but I fear a full high fever coming on. As the days turn over, as more lies are told, I become more anxious. The popular wisdoms come in many forms: “Just ignore the news.” “Nothing you hear is true anyway.” “There’s nothing you can do about it.” “It’s fake news.” “It’s alternative facts.”

What these last two phrases mean is beyond me – some kind of doubletalk? Bart Simpson has the answer: “I’m only in fourth grade, and even I know that ‘alternate’ means ‘lie.’”

Reagan in the 1980s lied when he said that all wrong things in the country were the government’s fault. Over the last two decades that statement has become gospel on one side of the aisle and created distrust in our republic, our representative democracy. Now, a couple of new lies have been added by a new leader: Our problems of misinformation are the fault of the intelligence community who are “like the Nazis,” he said. Oh, sorry, that was last week; now the CIA is the leader’s best friend. It’s the media who are apparently the source of misinformation because they are “the most dishonest people.”

We are being led by a fella who is creating “the erosion of social stability” according to Evan Osnos, writer for The New Yorker magazine. It’s an edgy if not dangerous situation because the power of using language without honesty or integrity is bigger than guns at our backs.

Lying sways us so easily and leaves us not knowing what to think. What’s the lie going to be today? And what is it I can be doing today to prepare for life in this post-truth era? At one point in a long campaign I was told there would be no “cut (to) Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid.” So, what’s that worth? My 80-year-old friend asked me on Saturday of last week, “When Robert dies and I have no pension, what will I do if my Social Security is taken away?” It hasn’t happened, it may not happen; she’s scared that it will happen.

The only slightly positive effect of a lying leader would be on those in the U.S. who don’t want any immigration at all. Those folks will no longer have to worry about it because many who want to come here are trying to get away from authoritarian leaders who lie. So why would they come here now? They want the freedom to live without a lot of marginally truthfully rhetoric that scares the daylights out of them. “Freedom, freedom, that’s what we look for,” said the Uzbekistan teenager broadcast on National Public Radio on January 23. He has just earned his status as an American citizen, and he praises his parents for getting him and his brother out of a place where the government was not promoting freedom of any kind.

When my just-inaugurated leader said on January 11 that the CIA had lied about him and then he went to the CIA building on January 22 and stood before a quote from the Bible carved into the wall – “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” – and said in that speech that he never said that the CIA were Nazis, well, it honestly ticked me off. Because he did say it. Everything this guy says is recorded or reported. Does he not care that we think he’s a liar?

Who does he think he is? Didn’t he know when he ran for the position that President of the United States is not that of Liar-in-Chief?

People urge me to give him a chance; he will unite us, as he said he would do at his acceptance speech in November.

I beg to differ. He has gutted the mutual moral trust demanded of communication, and he’s more divisive by the day.

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