Evidently, the art of the deal is really just the art of lying. Donald Trump has proven that not only is lying an art but it’s okay to do. We’ve all heard of “white lies” but Trump has developed a new course of study in academia: Blue lies. A blue lie is lying in the name of the collective good. Of course, a blue lie isn’t really a new thing. It’s just that Trump has raised it to a new level and the disintegration of political discourse has run with it.
What comes to your mind when you hear Trump lie about crowd size at his inauguration? How about when he lies about wiretapping or about any of his campaign promises, short of nominating a conservative judge to the Supreme Court? Turns out, his supporters don’t care. In fact, they feel his lies are justified. They feel that the Trump revolution is under siege by, well, everyone and anything is justified to hold the wolves at bay to accomplish what he said he would do.
We know why people lie. They simply want what they want and will say anything to get it. But what happens when everybody lies? What happens when politicians lie or when journalists lie or when judges lie or when police officers lie? Well, we know what happens. Authority breaks down and then social and political order. Chaos ensues. What we see today in politics, thanks mostly to Donald Trump but, more importantly, the people who supported him, is the early stages of disorder in a free society. When the rules of society get thrown aside, disorder, chaos, and collapse naturally follow.
We recently witnessed the debacle in Draper over a proposed homeless shelter. At the heart of that mob scene were lies – lies about purpose, intent, logistics, administrative processes and caricatures of homeless women and children. We witness lies almost daily as we watch the United States Senate work through the confirmation process of Judge Neil Gorsuch. Every minute of every day inside the senate lies are being told.
The journal, Scientific American, writes about lying in the age of Trump. They address falsehoods – sometimes called “alternative facts” – told on behalf of a group or cause that serve to strengthen the bonds of that group or within that cause. For years, my colleagues inside the pro-family movement have practiced what I call “obligatory optimism” to encourage rank and file even as they have had their heads handed to them in battle after cultural battle. Obligatory optimism is just lying. It’s not telling the truth.
But here’s the difficult part about lying: We justify it so easily. We look at a situation like Germans during World War II hiding Jews in their homes and then lying to stormtroopers about it and think that’s justified. We say, “I’d do that!” and “That’s not lying.” In those moments of life or death we feel fully justified to lie and rightly so. The problem, as I see it these days, is that we think everything is a life or death situation. This is what politics has become with all of our divisions. If Neil Gorsuch doesn’t get confirmed, unborn babies will die, guns will get confiscated, political correctness will spin even further out of control and fake science will shut down our economy in the name of climate change. And, if he does get confirmed, he and his conservative brethren on the High Court will usher in a new millennium of authoritarian suppression and oppression and every good thing America has ever stood for will disappear overnight. You see, all of that is worth lying for, don’t you think?
This is why a reasonable and rational view of the world is so important. When we fly out of control with our ideas, theories and what we think is true but is really false, we are liars. If the Enlightenment was about anything, it was about the pursuit of truth and unmasking lies. If there is anything about my brand of conservatism today, it’s about reality and context as much as it is the principles that drive my actions.
When the Senate’s constitutional expert, Utah’s own Mike Lee, votes for the “nuclear option” to undo Senate rules enacted precisely to protect us from partisan and impetuous political decisions, you know something is wrong. What’s wrong is a culture of lying wherein no one can survive without participating in the lies. Your word is no longer relevant in a culture of lying.
The good news is that the only way out of this mess is to tell the truth and live with its consequences. If a politician or a businessman or a judge or a police officer loves money or power more than his personal integrity, everything will continue to spiral downward until we lose our freedoms. But if good people will stand up and tell the truth…I mean real truth about life and the world around them…we could turn around this nation. Of course, that requires people to quit watching The Bachelor and start pondering truth.
Okay, so we’re screwed.