2012-10-17

The Lies That You Believe

All the flings and the flaws
Let me cling to someones clause
All of us are lonely souls and all of us mend broken laws
How come I always try to cross

Even though I know the bridge is burning?
How come I take it when I know that you fake it?
I tell myself I'm learning

The lies that I believe are simple

The lies that I believe are true
The lies that I believe are so beautiful
The lies that I believe are true
- Ian Thornley, "The Lies That I Believe"

Recently, Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger expressed dismay over the Obama campaign's propensity to call their opponents "liars." He put it this way:
The Obama campaign's resurrection of "liar" as a political tool is odious because it has such a repellent pedigree. It dates to the sleazy world of fascist and totalitarian propaganda in the 1930s. It was part of the milieu of stooges, show trials and dupes. These were people willing to say anything to defeat their opposition. Denouncing people as liars was at the center of it. The idea was never to elevate political debate but to debauch it.
The next day, though, fellow WSJ writer James Taranto offered a light dissent. In contrast to Henninger, Taranto "tends to agree with Henninger that the 'resurrection of 'liar' as a political tool is odious,' but we're ambivalent. It also strikes us as infantile, and as such hard to take altogether seriously." [Note: For idiomatic purposes, Taranto always refers to himself in the first person plural when he writes.] While Henninger warns that accusing one's opponents of lying is crossing a serious line, Taranto's belief is that it is more childish than anything; but that stating that "all politicians lie" propagates "a kind of mindless cynicism."

One hates to be a cynic, but on the other hand, why is belief in an objective fact "cynical?" There is no question that all politicians lie. I blogged about this a short while ago. Here's what I said a month ago:
For the most part, I have avoided commenting on the conventions because I still believe what other people seem to forget when the conventions are happening: politicians are all liars.

There is no doubt about this, no uncertainty. One need only compare a candidate's pre-election promises to their actual behavior once in office. Here I choose not to cite specific examples because I want the reader to fully understand that this is a pan-partisan fact. It is no "more true" of one group of people than it is of another. The spin doctors like to call it "flip-flopping" and peg it to one or two politicians, but it is true of all of them. They were all for it before they were against it, and vice-versa.
A couple of quick additional points here, and then I'll cut to the chase.

First, The Onion quite effectively drove this point home yesterday with a piece entitled "Nation Tunes In To See Which Sociopath More Likable This Time." At the risk of stealing Taranto's material, if politics has lost The Onion, then it's lost Middle America. The fact of the matter is that satire of The Onion's ilk more accurately reflects the nation's mood than anything a couple of lying, scheming politicians say.

Second - and this is an important segue - it continues to baffle me why any normal person can in seriousness call one party's politicians "liars" and not also those of the other party. There can only be one explanation for this, and this is where the above-quoted song lyrics come in.

Pretending To Believe
As I have invested some time in describing recently, faith is the act of replacing what we wish to be true with what we know to be true. It is important to keep this in mind when one exposes oneself to the world of politics because it can be easy to fall into the politicians' traps.

We must always accept the fact - the fact - that politicians are lying to us. The moment we lose sight of this fact (fact), we slip into a groundless faith more "mindless" than anything Taranto thinks of our "cynicism."

I had hoped that this was perfectly obvious in 2008, because up until that point, I had never seen a politician who so unabashedly played the people's faith against themselves as Barack Obama. Every speech he gave since "the big one" in 2004 was as vacuous as a vacuum can be. His rhetoric was vague and empty, he said things that everyone clearly agreed with, but which were also not in the least bit controversial. He cooked-up slogans about "hope and change," and then left a big, gaping hole when it came to what he actually stood for.

The result of this tactic was not that people saw through it, as I thought they would. Instead, the public took the bait and filled the hole Obama's rhetoric left with their own personal desires. Rather than evaluating the Obama platform and recognizing it as totally vapid, people inserted their own policy desires into it. They were sure he'd close Guantanamo Bay. They were sure he'd bring the troops home and set us on a course of peace. They were certain he'd adopt Bill Clinton's economic policies.

Instead, what they got was a man who drones children in Pakistan on a daily basis, subjecting them to a nightmare the likes of which you cannot begin to imagine, much less sympathize with. They got a psychopath who lambastes anyone who dares to disagree with him, a man who wags his finger at the Supreme Court justices from the bully pulpit, a man who blames his every failure on other people, a man who wages class warfare and who completely disregards the US Constitution; a man who states in one breath that he believes in free enterprise and in the next breath takes over whole industries and subsidizes expensive pet projects.

But, look, Obama isn't anything new here. Obama is nothing more than the latest example. And, disturbingly, he is fully transparent in his lying. And so is Romney. When the two campaigns accuse the other of lying, they are (hilariously) telling the truth.

What they hope is that we, the American public, will simply do the legwork ourselves. They hope that we will convince ourselves that one party's lies are true, or truer than the other party's lies. What they hope is that our faith in them will carry them onward.

Sadly, there are still people I know who are doing this. But at a certain point, they will have to ask themselves what they (my friends) gain by having a mindless faith in millionaire politicians who are not acting in the best interest of my friends.

Get it? The first step to real freedom is releasing yourself from carrying the burden of excusing the lies of politicians. Election day is still a short ways away. There is still time.