Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Lies Matter (Or, When People Show You Who They Are...)

From Merrick Garland to the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is plenty to rage at, and much cyber-ink has been distance-spilled raging about it. But I was particularly struck by this piece at Slate by Lili Loofbourow.

She talks about some larger issues here, and I think there's a lesson for folks in the education world. She talks here about the effects of McConnell's cavalier dismissal of his own made-up rule from 2016:

He made quick work of the optimists on Twitter suggesting that he surely wouldn’t be so hellbent on total power that he’d risk destroying the country by breaking the precedent he himself had articulated. Wrong. He would. And anyone who took him at his word when he rejected Merrick Garland’s nomination was made a fool when he reversed himself on the question of whether (to quote the man himself) “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”

I want to pause here to note, humbly, that it is wounding to watch a public servant reduce those who take him at his word to fools. I mention that not because it “matters” in any sense McConnell would recognize but because it is simply true that this nation’s decline accelerates when the conventional wisdom becomes that believing what the Senate Majority Leader says is self-evidently foolish. The chestnut that politicians always lie is overstated—a society depends on some degree of mutual trust. One party has embraced nihilism, pilloried trust, and turned good faith into a sucker’s failing in a sucker’s game.

Naked power grabs are ugly, and infuriating when you're sitting powerlessly on the losing side of the grabbing. But lying is toxic. Take it from someone who poisoned chunks of his own life with lies years ago. Lying is destructive--it ruins trust, trashes relationships, makes it hard to move forward in any useful way. And trust is the foundation of everything, every bit of communication, right down to the foundational trust that when people use words they are making a good faith attempt to convey meaning and not conceal it. If words don't mean anything, we're just grunting hairless apes waving sticks.

Some folks like to get their lawyer on when discussing lies. It's not technically lying because I just spun it a little, because I just left a few details out, because the other party didn't ask the right question. The only reason anyone embarks on such explanations is because they know that "not technically lying" is, in fact, actually lying. If you are manipulating the facts in order to get somebody else to do what you want them to, that's lying. And it's always toxic.

Right now, a whole bunch of elected folks and vapid media farts are showing us who they are. They are showing us that there is no principle more important than grabbing what they want, and that includes principles like "words mean things" or "my word is my bond."

This needs to be noted and remembered for those days when these unprincipled liars start making mouth noises about what principles they think should be involved in decisions about public education. In the world of people who want to dismantle and replace public education, there are people who will say what they mean, and even as I think they are wrong, I can at least respect that they are acting out of principle. But these political mannequins who put principles on and off as easily as changing shirts--they are never, ever to be trusted or taken seriously. Their opponents--and, for that matter, their allies of the moment--forget that at their own peril. 

1 comment:

  1. This latest stunt is absolutely the last straw. ReThugs are lying, cheating crooks since Nixon. All they do is abuse power.