According to The Washington Post, as of April 23, President Trump had made 9,014 false or misleading claims since taking the oath to defend that Constitution of the United States. It would seem a safe assumption that if the president’s lips are moving, he is lying or soon will be lying. He who throws around the phrase, “Fake News!” is actually this nation’s chief purveyor of lies and false information..
What does it do to us and our system of government when the presidency is drained of all integrity and honor? And to make matters worse — if they can get worse — the recently released Mueller Report makes it clear that the members of the president’s inner circle have no more regard for the truth than he does. If one lie doesn’t work, try a bigger one, or deny you ever lied in the first place! After all, as Kellyanne Conway reminds us, there are no real lies, only “alternative facts.”
The lies happen and continue to happen because to Trump and his lap dogs, the integrity of the office or our institutions does not matter. As David Brooks said in a recent column, the president and those closest to him, “are motivated by self-interest … They are trying to sow disorder at the foundation of society. The goal is not really to convert anybody to a cause; it is to create cynicism and disruption that will open up the space to grab what you want to grab … And, therefore, all values are suspended. Everything is permitted.”
In Trump-World, public office is no longer a public trust, but rather a “private bauble” to be manipulated for personal self-interest. In such an atmosphere, facts are picked and chosen based on convenience and ideology while truth is written off as a technicality. But where do “we the people” turn if there is no longer truth, but only innuendo, rumor and lies? Says one essayist, “The mystic chords of memory, the ties to the timeless truths that held the nation together, have faded to ethereal invisibility.”
Terri Roberts died in 2017. She was the mother of Charlie Roberts, the man responsible for the shooting of ten Amish schoolgirls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania., on Oct. 2, 2006. In the years following that horrific event, Terri developed a special relationship with the families of those girls. Rosanna, one of the girls who survived the shooting, is in a wheelchair and must use a feeding tube for nourishment. Every other Thursday, Terri would visit Rosanna. She bathed her, read with her and sang with her. Every time Teri visited, she was confronted with the damage her son had caused. But each visit was also a reminder that violence and hatred do not have the last word. Healing and hope are possible. And each year in October, around the time of the shooting, Terri had tea with the Amish mothers as a way of remembering the season and redeeming it. Truth was not what she said; it was what she did.
And perhaps therein lies our hope as we try to ascend from the deep, immoral abyss into which our nation has fallen. We can argue and debate and write hundreds of words, but finally the deepest truths of life are always found in the flesh, in what we do, in how we live. We cannot control the stream of lies and misrepresentations that pours out of Washington and fills the internet. But knowing that finally all we have to offer is ourselves, we can resolve that in this time and is place, we will be the truth. For truth is not so much something we discover as it is something we do.
The Rev. Gene Nelson is the retired pastor of Sebastopol Community Church.