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Are We a Nation of Liars?

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Within weeks of the nation's first postal service delivery, some one must have uttered the now infamous and proverbial lie, "The check is in the mail." Richard Nixon's, "I am not a crook" and Bill Clinton's, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" all certainly conjure up images of famous falsehoods. George W. Bush's, "Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program" proved to be a toweringly tall tale. Have we become a nation of liars?

Lying, it would seem these days, is fashionable. Sure, politicians have always lied, but with each passing generation, they lie more and the lies become larger. Have once stately statesmen, which now lie with every breath and word, become the replica for our own deceitful deeds? Is this finally the generation that embraces pious propaganda, haughty half-truths and marvelous mendacities as the measure of morality? Fibbing, it would seem, is no longer faux.

Some have made a living off of lying in order to enlighten us with the innocence of the not so innocent. Johnny Cochran's impertinent "If the glove does not fit, you must acquit" tag line, during closing statements to defend O.J. Simpson, reveals just how useful uttering untruths can be. Linguistics matter and semantic-based summaries can sway impartiality over to injustice. In the lexicon of today's language, deception, not perception, is now king.

Others, from the tobacco industry, to the processed food manufacturers, to the pharmaceutical companies, have all engaged in pernicious campaigns of less than altruistic acts to gain access to our pocket books with nary a notion or thought. Each new precedent of pretend that is reached seems to embolden the managers of these misrepresentations and Holy Grail hoaxes to stridently strive at outperforming the latest act of obfuscation. Paying lip service, it appears, is profusely profitable.

Correspondingly, parents have parroted to today's kids what past generations have told their own children -- mainly more lies. Guardians of America's future legions habitually lie to eschew the ever escalating pain of child-rearing -- mainly telling the truth about life. Little white lies, the likes of, "sitting too close to the television will hurt your eyes" and "if you make funny faces, your face will stay like that" often plant the seeds in young minds that are later harbored then ultimately harvested for more disturbing acts of dishonesty. Parental piety sadly appears to formulate phony facades and venal veneers.

A review of today's political landscape will divulge a litany of liars. Witness the Whitehouse's whitewash of truths to twist and spin the facts to play on the softened sophistication of today's sound-byte driven society. George W. Bush's preposterous statements, such as, "We found the weapons of mass destruction", "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" and the whopper of them all, "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so", speaks volumes of our incurious culpability to seek legitimacy. Searching to find a seemingly elusive public envelope of trust to push open, magnificent lies by the powers-that-be have been foisted upon the public to feast on and no one has yet to notice the bitter taste and rancid smell of a rat.

Amid these weapons of mass deception was a ticking time bomb of more prophetic proportion. It was a revelation that the American people would soon learn of the evasive truths about the mass manufacturing of manipulation to launch illicit wars and limit liberty. When you begin to pull on the individual threads of democracy, the very fabric woven together to form this great nation, you start to unravel the whole cloth. A once pillar of weighty patriotism quickly becomes a tattered, rag-tag mess of messianic democracy that demotes democratic principles to rhetorical and emblematic use only. Political candor has now been beguiled and browbeaten away from the bully pulpit of civic leaders.

What we don't know -- specifically the truth -- may indeed hurt us; mortally and spiritually as a nation. Not only have we become a nation of liars, but we have become a complacent populace all too unwilling to challenge and champion for the truth in a sea of hypocrisy and lies. When treachery and deceit are now the norm, it would rightly appear that, "In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is [truly] a revolutionary act".
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Frank J. Ranelli is an independent scholar, skeptic and critic, author and essayist. His erudite and iconoclastic style of provocative writing has been extensively published in a variety of news outlets and across (more...)
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