Cowardly Lyin’

RIP Cecil. By now you know about the beloved lion, Cecil, who was lured away from a national park in Zimbabwe so that a dentist from Minnesota, Walter James Palmer, could have an opportunity to hunt Cecil outside the confines of the national park for $50,000.00. I won’t recount the gory details here. Suffice it to say, that while nothing will bring back Cecil the Lion, the public condemnation of Palmer’s big game hunt is forcing consequences that he obviously never imagined. In the face of serious threats, Palmer admitted to killing Cecil, but claimed that he was led to believe that the transaction and the hunt were legal. Whether or not they were legal, they were cowardly. And, at the very least, he’s lying to himself to convince himself that his hunting was justifiable.

Humans lie. Sometimes the lie is small and the consequences are insignificant beyond the immediate saving face. Other times, the lies are great to cover serious acts—perhaps criminal or to save lives. Lying to oneself is more insidious. Humans have tremendous capacities for convincing, and as Stephen Colbert taught us, “truthiness”. We contrive information and situations to suit our beliefs and our stories—even our morals.

We lie when we are afraid. And we tend to feel superior—even brave—when we think we are speaking truth to power. Sometimes, though, people confuse speaking truth to power, with speaking power to truthiness. People may disagree and still speak truthfully. Sadly, we are bombarded with cowardice and lying, in the guise of bully tactics and outrageous attempts to discredit perceived threats to one’s beliefs and/or power.

The current controversy over a “secret” (and edited) video created by abortion foes to discredit (and defund) Planned Parenthood is infuriating and tragic to me. The incredible, intentional distortion used to suggest that Planned Parenthood is a nefarious operation engaged in trafficking fetal body parts for profit, is disturbing not because if it were true it would be horrifying, but because there are those who feel compelled to lie and distort to suit their so-called morals. I have no objection to those who oppose abortion on moral grounds. I may respectfully disagree. I have objections to those who seek to ruin people by suggesting horror through distortion. It is cowardly to lie to make a point. It is also tragic.

Remember when Representative Joe Wilson yelled, “You lie!!” at the President during Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress? It was startling and cringe-worthy, not because there was another important side or other information to consider (there usually is), but because disagreement is not an excuse for distortion, obnoxious behavior, outrageous statements, or lying (much less lying about lying). The assumption that someone who represents other ideas must be lying is small minded. However, when someone speaks and/or acts in a way that includes taking down another to make a point, one wonders about why one might need to distort and/or lie.

Are we so threatened and frightened by everyone else that lying or yelling “You lie!”, (or worse), or intentionally distorting the truth (lying) is all we have? Certainly, demanding the truth is necessary, and the ways in which that can be accomplished can be done with more critical thought and analysis. Our communications revolution has facilitated the ways in which people can be seen and heard, and allows for seemingly endless opportunities for distortion. The instantaneousness that technology provides encourages immediate reactions and responses, and a myriad of platforms to put forth one’s views.

Humans have always lied. Now, though, they can distort images and audio, or even just distort the truth for all to consume constantly. They can spew hate on global platforms heard and/or seen instantly and repeatedly. Even worse, it seems like so many will buy into lies, or at least into “truthiness”.

People often lie when they feel threatened or have a distorted sense of power and value. When they seek to bring down another, they are cowards. Cowardly lyin’, no matter how creative the lies or distortions, sustains negativity and can’t create positive change.
There will always be threatening people and ideas. Some will seek veracity, truth and compassion through truth. Others will seek power without compassion and distort the truth. They are cowardly lyin’.

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