George Washington, our first President, must be spinning around heaven; that is if he tuned into the most recent news about the United States. Washington is well known for confessing he was the one who cut down the cherry tree.
“I cannot tell a lie,” Washington proclaimed.
For generations, teachers and parents used his example to teach their children to be truthful. Seems truth-telling teaching has either faded or is overwhelmed by social media. Although, the explanation might be that there are no consequences.
Freedom of speech allows for lying. In politics, lying has become a standard of excellence.
The common lie
But, in the interest of being real, all of us at one time or more have lied. I can think of several examples of my own. Lying for me is typically a strategy to get out of a conversation or situation I have either willfully or inadvertently found myself in.
A good example is a high school reunion I attended a few years ago in which a formerly popular high school guy sat next to me. I was curious about his story over the past 40 years, but not for long.
Formerly popular guy launched into the story of his career successes, his financial successes, his real estate holdings and his successful marriages. Seems he had more than one successful marriage, each of which he claimed ended due to his wives’ greed.
This information came out in less than 30 minutes, although it felt like four hours. I spent the last 10 minutes planning my escape.
I really wanted to tell him he was an intolerable bore. Or, alternatively, put my head on the table, start banging it and pleading with him to stop. I did neither.
Instead I said, “I’ve enjoyed talking with you, you have done a lot, but I promised a friend I would spend time with her,” got up and left.
All of which was a lie.
The deception lies
I walked away with my decency intact and his ego left for someone else to exorcise. No harm, no foul and something we have all done to one degree or other.
Lying would not be so terrible if it kept to known thieves, con artists and snake oil sales personnel. We could leave it to law enforcement to discover illegal activity and the courts to exact appropriate punishment.
Somewhere on the way from Washington’s confession and our lies, fibs and untruths to today, lying became a way of political life that stayed beyond campaigns and infiltrated many who were and are elected to govern.
Nowadays, no shameful consequence shrouds those that lie or the lie. Instead, they are shrouded with the impunity of having been elected by a community to local, state or national office.
George Santos was elected to the House of Representatives by a community that accepted his statements about his history as truth until most if not all his statements were proven to be false after he was elected.
Hand wringing by the Republican Party to which he belonged, the House of Representatives to which he will soon be a member and the bamboozled community ensued.
What to do?
Apparently, there is very little to do about his misrepresentations. The Speaker of the House, when revealed, can withhold committee assignments, and refer him to the House ethics committee. There does not seem to be a big appetite for any censure which makes sense given the party leader is Donald Trump, former president and composer of a prodigious number of documented lies.
The bamboozled community can protest but there is no constitutional provision to recall representatives. A representative can be removed by a two-thirds vote of the House to expel the representative. No doubt there is little appetite for expulsion given the tight margin in the House.
I only dwell on this strange man who cannot seem to tell the truth about anything to demonstrate there is no consequences for his behavior until the next election.
Investigations are in progress about his financial dealings but even then, he can be a representative should he be found guilty and incarcerated.
That reality is stranger than he is and should be some comfort to crooks in Congress, unless their crime is treason or supporting an insurrection.
I doubt George Santos would be elected if the voters knew about his lies before the election. The mechanism we have to dig into these issues of common good is also in the first amendment to the Constitution: freedom of the press.
We are dependent on the press to ask the questions and get the right answers and publishers to be objective in the contents of their newspapers to inform the public.
The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Examiner and other national newspapers are busy on national issues and have little resources or incentives to do investigative reporting on 435 contested races.
First, we need to know the truth and the falsehood to decide whether it is important or even relevant. Very few, if any, care that I deceived my boring companion.
But many voters care whether candidates are telling the truth about themselves and their intentions.
But who is going to do the research in local races? Not thousands of voters. But the press will; that is if a local press exists and has the resources.
“A report on local news in the United States revealed that 2,514 weekly publications closed down or merged with other papers between 2004 and 2022, with the number of non-daily papers falling from over 7.4 thousand to just 5.1 thousand in that period, and dailies dropping from close(d) to 1,500 to under 1,250. This includes over 100 dailies which changed to weeklies.” (statista.com/statistics/944134)
We in the greater Sequim area have an almost-daily paper and a weekly, but we have seen our papers grow smaller and make concessions to stay in business.
Investigative reporting takes time and is not likely funded in the current environment.
Politics and governing based on falsehoods will only grow in a press-free environment spurned on by the sad truth that lies bring lots of money into campaigns for office or alleged causes.
Grifting runs side by side with lying. Both feed upon themselves if there is no material consequence because like decay they thrive in darkness.
Bertha Cooper, an award-winning featured columnist with the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and it the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at email@example.com.