'Truth be Told'

By Dan Schmitt | December 9, 2016 | In J.D. Salinger’s 1951 classic novel Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, ...

By Dan Schmitt | December 9, 2016 |

In J.D. Salinger’s 1951 classic novel Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, is awash in angst, depression and habitual lying. Throughout the story, Caulfield frequently prefaces his take on people, incidences and life with “If you want to know the truth.” What Caulfield’s twisted mind understands as truth is in reality fiction, but he can’t discern the difference.

I thought about Holden Caulfield recently in the context of the past eight years of the Obama Administration and the 2016 presidential election. And I’ve come to the conclusion that much of America is functioning in a “Holden Caulfield world.” It’s a world where facts and evidence don’t matter. It’s a world where facts can be manufactured and stated over and over as if they’re Gospel. It’s a world of lying where there’s a plethora of folks very willing to believe those lies and even act on them. It’s a world where many people are too intellectually lazy to check the veracity of the information they receive, especially information coming to them via social media, cable news, and talk radio. It’s a scary world indeed, and it doesn’t bode well for our democracy.

Just this past Sunday, a man from North Carolina walked into a Washington D.C. family pizzeria and fired at least one round from his assault weapon after hearing a fake news story (wasn’t fake to him!) about Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager operating a child sex ring in the basement of the restaurant.

If you think that pizzeria fake news story was an aberration, think again. This type of bold-faced lying has been the modus operandi of the right-wing propaganda machine as far back as the Clinton White House years. Today, the chief bold-faced liar is none other than our president-elect. Trump cut his political lying teeth back in 2009 when he incessantly claimed that President Obama was not born in the United States. He said that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks, which was nonsense. He claimed President Obama and Secretary of State were the founders of ISIS, which is worse than nonsense.

Lies are damaging when people believe them, and no Trump lie was more damaging then his oft-repeated claim that Hillary Clinton was a criminal and should be in prison because of the email situation. FBI director, Richard Comey, a guy who’s pretty astute when it comes to knowing real criminal activity, stated emphatically that Clinton was careless with her private email server but no reasonable prosecutor would bring criminal charges against her for that carelessness. Trump continued his accusations against Clinton throughout the campaign and even insisted he would prosecute her if elected president. This, despite the fact that presidents don’t have the authority to prosecute anyone!

If miserable people love company, than so do liars, and the Liar-in-Chief will have plenty of Holden Caulfields to keep him company when he takes office on January 20, 2017. The majority of people Trump has tapped for top administration positions have a penchant for telling whoppers. His chosen national security advisor, retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn spread claims, just before the November 8 election, linking the Clintons to money laundering and a sex cult. Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, is a chronic misinformationalist. From the “ancient Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain” to “Planned Parenthood is conspiring to control the black population” to “prison rape is evidence that homosexuality is a choice” to “President Obama is involved in a communist plot to bring down the country,” the guy spins yarns that would make Aesop jealous. Trump’s pick for CIA director, yes, folks, that’s CIA director, Representative Mike Pompeo, insinuated at one of the Benghazi hearings in 2011 that Clinton had used the Benghazi consulate for a gun-running operation. And the yarns go on and on.

Over 2,500 years ago, the Greek tragedy writer, Aeschylus, noted “In war, truth is the first casualty.” If that’s true, then Americans who value veracity in their representatives better prepare for one hell of a war over the next four years. The stakes are high. Truth be told, our democracy as we know it is in jeopardy!

PS: If you value truth as THE essential element of democracy, pass this on to your friends. If you are ambivalent toward truth, do yourself a favor and read Orwell’s Animal Farm.

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