BY JOE LEARY
SPECIAL TO THE BIR
For several years now most Americans have been disappointed by a federal government in Washington that features constant bickering, outlandish statements from all sides, little being done to correct such problems as a faulty immigration system and health care costs, and the absence of a civil, thoughtful management that gets things done.
Trust is hard to come by when average citizens are being told untruths and don’t know how to react. Aggressive positions taken by all sides of an issue are hard and bitter and seemingly irresolvable, and raucous Congressional hearings on matters like Benghazi and FBI agent Peter Strzok’s emails add to the ceaseless chaos.
In the past month, the disappointment has grown to focus on America’s dealings with our neighbors across the globe. It is fair to say that our foreign relationships are a mess. President Trump’s recent trip to Europe to meet with the leadership of NATO, and later with the prime minister of Britain, descended into heavy criticism and personal attacks by the American leader.
Then came the disastrous meeting in Helsinki with the president of Russia where our leader insulted our intelligence agencies and looked completely subservient to the Russian dictator.
Some things seem to have been turned upside down. Conservative Republicans who have fought for free and open trade for decades are witnessing their party’s leader imposing huge import tariffs on our friends in Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, and on China, to many, our main competitor in world affairs.
While this has been going on, the country’s debt has grown substantially due in the main to vastly increased spending by the administration and a new tax bill that primarily benefits higher wage earners. Conservative principles don’t seem to matter anymore except perhaps in the selection of Supreme Court judges.
As we watch television or pick up the morning newspaper, we hear or read statements like the following from Washington: “The press is the people’s enemy; it is all fake news” and “The United States has been foolish and stupid about our interaction with Russia.”
With the constant drumbeat of criticism about the FBI, CIA and our intelligence agencies, the average American hardly knows what to believe anymore as lies and gross untruths are constantly being aired.
Generations have grown up listening to stories about George Washington and his cherry tree adventure when he said, “I cannot tell a lie.” Lying was not permitted when we were young. Our priests and ministers said so, our teachers said so, our coaches said so, and if you lied to the FBI you would go to jail. Reporters lose their jobs if they lie. Try lying to your boss, though you might only get one chance.
But lying has become normal, even excusable to a certain segment of the population. When a politician or bureaucrat is caught telling a blatant lie, another lie is used to cover it up. Recently an excuse for a so-called misstatement cited the difference between the verb forms “would” and “wouldn’t.” Can you imagine a drill instructor or a school prefect of discipline accepting such an excuse?
The discovery of transparent lying or what some call “truthful hyperbole” can severely erode confidence in a person or institution. As a recent Politico Magazine article pointed out, “When we are overwhelmed with false or potentially false statements, our brains pretty quickly become so overworked that we stop trying to sift through everything.”
A writer for the Washington Post last month questioned whether truth can survive the current atmosphere. And Einstein reportedly said, “Whoever is careless with the truth cannot be trusted.” Ultimately, paying attention is the best defense for the average American citizen.
BY JOE LEARY