Most of us lie now and then.
“That was delicious!”
“Your hair looks great.”
“No one will notice the stain.”
We lie to friends because it’s easier than telling the truth:
“I didn’t forget your birthday. I just forgot to call you.”
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
We lie to get out of sticky situations:
“I’ll call you.”
“We can still be friends.”
We lie to our wives:
“I’m stuck in traffic.”
“I never look at other women.”
“Of course I haven’t been drinking.”
We lie to our husbands:
“I’ll be ready in a minute.”
“There’s nothing wrong. I’m fine.”
The serpent lied to Eve, and truth has suffered since.
But never as publicly and as profoundly as it is suffering now.
Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have taken lying to a new level. They manipulate facts, they distort figures, they avoid answering questions. They smile and dance around issues like Billy Flynn in “Chicago” — “Give ‘em the old razzle dazzle / Razzle dazzle ’em.”
And they are getting away with it!
Trillions in tax cuts or trillions in deficit spending? Well-paying or low-paying jobs? Terrorism. Medicare. Obama-care. The middle class will suffer. The middle class will flourish. Each tells us what he wants us to hear.
Never mind the truth. Truth is irrelevant. Reporters check the facts and make lists of their deceptions after every debate.
How can this be? The two men who are running for president of the United States, the most powerful country on earth, are allowed to present their fictions as facts, to deliberately distort, to deceive, to deviate, to say just about anything they want. And we accept this?
One lie — “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” — almost brought down a president. A plethora of lies is now creating one.
Charles Lindbergh had multiple families in multiple countries. Fred Demara, the Great Impostor (who was born in Lawrence, by the way) pretended to be a lawyer, a surgeon, a monk.
No doubt about it. These men were liars.
But because most of us lie a little, “You look fabulous!” because we lie to our kids, “This medicine tastes just like candy,” because we live in a world of lies, “Eat this to stay young.” “Take this pill.” “Apply this cream.” “Exercise.” “Floss.” “This will restore hair.” “This will restore youth.” “Durable.” “Washable.” “Flushable,” we tend to shrug off small untruths.
But the distortions we are hearing in this political race are not small. They are big and they are misleading and they are repeated again and again, never mind that fact checkers have called them repeated lies.
And they will influence how we vote.
In Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” a baker and his wife lie and scheme to get a baby. “There are rights and wrongs and in-betweens,” they tell each other. They have to justify what they do: “Everyone tells tiny lies / What’s important, really, is the size.”
A little lie doesn’t count, right?
Except that it does. “Into the Woods” is only a show. This election is a showdown.
Someone will win, but all of us will lose. Because both the president and the governor have sacrificed truth for victory.