When we look at our politicians, we know that most of ‘em . . . the vast majority . . . are habitual, perhaps even pathological, liars. Only rarely (Ron Paul comes to mind) do we elect someone who seems mostly honest.
And so I wonder, how can we explain the predominance of liars among our leaders? Are lying politicians just so slick that, almost every time, they fool honest folks like you and me into voting for them? Or is it possible that “honest folks like you and me” aren’t being fooled at all, but instead knowingly and intentionally prefer to elect liars to public office?
I think that most Americans prefer liars and therefore knowingly elect liars. God help us, but it appears that most of us have an affinity for liars and for lies.
We try tell ourselves (OK, maybe not ourselves; but we tell others and our kids) that telling the truth is admirable, desirable, respectable and beneficial for all. It is the best policy. But, for ourselves, well, sometimes lying is simply a necessity. We don’t want to lie, but sometimes it’s the easiest course of action.
• For example, the next time your wife asks “Does this dress make me look fat?,” go ahead and try telling her the truth. Let us know how your foray into truth-telling works out.
If you haven’t already learned about the dangers of honesty, your wife will probably illuminate those dangers in terms you’ll be unlikely to forget. The next time she asks if the dress makes her look fat, you will reply, “Absolutely not, darling—in fact, I think that dress makes you look remarkably slim. In fact, I think you look just like you did when I first saw you in high school—thirty years ago.”
Of course, you won’t be foolin’ anybody. Your wife will know that you’re lying—but she won’t mind. Instead, she’ll be delighted by your lies and may reward you handsomely later that night. Even if you’re not expressly rewarded, you’ll at least be spared another crying, screaming brawl—and that’s reward enough, right?
In fact, we all extort lies from our friends and lovers. If you won’t lie to make your friends (and spouses) feel good, chances are you’re going to wind up living alone.
We’ll get to why we like lies in a moment.
• But first, here’s another bit of humor about the female inclination to harvest lies. I don’t know about you, but I never had any “line” to use for chasing women. “Lines” were lies and even as a young man, I didn’t want to lie.
So I was much disturbed to see how many attractive women would routinely prefer the lines/lies of some moron rather than my truth. I was bewildered. Why do women seem drawn to men who lie?
That female affinity for liars was classically illustrated by Woody Allen in his move Play It Again, Sam. If you saw that movie, you’ll probably remember the Humphrey Bogart character trying to coach the nerdy Woody Allen on what to say to girls—in this case Diane Keaton.
Bogart growls to Woody, “Go tell her that, ‘I’ve seen some good-lookin’ broads in my life, baby, but you’re really something.’”
Woody whines, “Ohhh, she’ll never fall for that!”
Bogart growls, “Just do it.”
Woody reluctantly tells Diane, “I’ve seen some beautiful broads in my life, baby, but you’re really something.”
Diane coos, “Oooo, do you really think so?!”
Woody (amazed) tells Bogart, “She bought it!”
The scene is hilarious. Woody thinks that, thanks to lies, he’s getting over on Diane—but I’m not so sure. The innocent, dimwitted female played by Diane Keaton has caused both Woody and Bogart to lie to her . . . to lie for her. In doing so, she’s demonstrated real power over Woody.
Woody, on the other hand, demonstrated his submissiveness by lying.
• So far, I’ve supported my contention that most American like lies and liars with a couple of jokes. That’s pretty flimsy evidence, but it’s still illuminating.
For a more serious illustration of Americans’ affinity for lies and liars, go to court and review however many contempt citations a judge has issued.
For example, check out the judge’s contempt citations for failure to pay child support. I know that there are a variety of reasons why people don’t pay child support. Some reasons are pathetic and unworthy of respect, but others are expressions of truth: they guy doesn’t have the money. He lost his job. The IRS seized his paycheck. The car died and had to be repaired in order to keep his job so he could keep paying child support.
Go ahead and tell the judge the truth and see if it works. The judge doesn’t care about the truth. He ordered you to pay $500 a month in child support and if you violate his order for any reason or no reason, you could be headed for jail.
How ‘bout actual contempt of court when you tell the judge to his face that he’s a “thieving, conniving, money-grubbing shyster”? All of that may be absolutely true and common knowledge within the court house. But if you dare to tell that truth to the allegedly “honorable” judge, you’ll be headed for the slammer.
People lie all day in courts and are almost never charged with perjury. But if you try telling the truth about the court itself, you’re going to pay a price.
The courts welcome lies and liars but despise truth-tellers.
Why? Because there’s an implied arrogance in anyone who habitually tells the truth. If you’re willing and inclined to tell the truth, that inevitably means that you don’t have much respect for the person you’re honestly describing. Lies are evidence that you’re weak. Telling truth is evidence that you don’t respect or, better yet, fear the person you’re describing. People in positions of power hate truth-tellers because they always threaten that power.
I doubt that there’s a single example in all of history of someone who couldn’t offend people by telling the truth.
• For me, the best modern example of the people’s affinity for lies and liars was seen in the A.D. 1988 George Bush Sr. vs. Michael Dukakis race for the presidency.
The U.S. gov-co was in some financial troubles and needed more money.
Bush famously promised “Read my lips: No new taxes.” He promised that if he were elected, there’d be no new taxes.
Michael Dukakis, on the other hand, admitted that if he were elected, taxes would have to be raised.
Americans voted overwhelmingly for Bush. If I recall correctly, he wasn’t in office more than six months before (contrary to his “read my lips” promise) he raised taxes.
Dukakis had told the truth about raising taxes. Bush had lied. Americans voted for Bush. Americans voted for the lie and the liar.
And rightfully so. Who did that swarthy little Greek think he was, daring to tell truth to the American people? How dare he run for the presidency—the presidency, damn it—and not lie to us?!
Dukakis disrespected the American people by telling them the truth. He actually thought we’d elect someone to office who was arrogant enough to tell us the truth.
Dukakis didn’t understand lies and liars. He didn’t understand America’s appetite for lies.
He didn’t understand that every lie is inherently flattering to the person being lied to. He didn’t understand that we lie to get something that we can’t get with our own power. Thus, whenever we lie, we admit that the person we’re lying to is stronger, more powerful than we are. Lying is an act of submission—an admission that whoever we’re lying to is our superior. Lying is an act of dependence.
So, whenever you lie to someone, you’re essentially kissing their ass. You’re admitting that they own you; that you are inferior; that they are more powerful.
When Bush said “Read my lips—no new taxes!” he lied and we loved him for it. We loved him because, with that lie, Bush admitted that we owned him, that he was our inferior. And somewhere in most people’s psyche is an instinct to be tickled and delighted by other people’s lies because those lies implicitly admit our superiority.
There’s little in life that’s more flattering than lies. There’s little in life that caters to our vanity as much as lies. It’s a shame that people are built that way, but most of us are.
The woman who seeks lies about whether her new dress makes her look fat, doesn’t really care what the dress does for her appearance. She cares about the power that she wields when she induces her “significant other” to lie.
The woman in the bar who prefers the lover with a “line”/lie isn’t worried about the sex and certainly not the reproduction. She wants to see a demonstration of her power by making some knucklehead lie to her.
The courts that are supposed to seek justice and truth couldn’t care less about either. It’s all about the power, and the public’s lies admit that power. Try telling truth to a judge and see if you don’t wind up in jail.
And then there’s the politicians. If they want to be elected, they’d better be willing to lie to us. If they’re going to insist on telling us the truth, they might just as well stay off the ballot and leave space for the kind of candidates we generally prefer: bold-faced liars who can look us in the eye and solemnly declare “Ah did not . . . have sexual relations . . . with that woman”.
Pucker up, Bill, and kiss it! Kiss it again! And again! Kiss that national butt, big boy! Tell us lies, tell us lies, tell us sweet, sweet lies!
Lies are the political equivalent of oral sex. That’s why most Americans (secretly) favor lies.
It’s also why those of you who are compulsive truth-tellers can expect to spend much of your lives in a kind of solitude. You’ll find that telling the truth may cause you to be almost as despised as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. You may find that telling truth seldom leads to a significant reward—at least not in this this life.
But who cares? If you’re really into telling truth, the fun of watching the liars squirm when you speak almost makes it all worthwhile.
• In closing let’s consider two of the most famous non-liars: the Christ and God (our Father YHWH ha Elohiym).
The Christ, while on earth, tried to tell the truth and wound up crucified. The world’s affinity for lies and aversion to truth-tellers isn’t a recent phenomenon. It’s been around for thousands of years.
And then there’s God who, we’re told, can’t lie.
How odd. How could it be that God can’t do anything? If He’s God, you’d think that He could lie, right?
Wrong. If I’m correct that lies are an expression of the liar’s submission and inferiority to whoever He’s lying to, then if God lied, He would implicitly admit that some being was superior to Himself; that He (God) was inferior to and subject to some other being’s power.
That means that if God lied, He would no longer be the “supreme being in the universe”. By lying, God would admit that He was inferior to whoever He lied to. Thus, by definition, a “god” that lied could not be the single, supreme “God” over all the universe.
And that’s why God can’t lie.
To lie is an admission of inferiority, submission and insufficient power to acquire or achieve whatever it is you want on your own. To lie is to depend on others. To lie is to be a dependent.
To tell the truth is the highest mark of strength and independence—and a good dose of solitude.