The Truth About Truth

Roy Moore and the Weaponization of the Lie

Roy Moore got me thinking about this, but that was only the beginning, not the end. Truth, or what each of us as individuals believes the truth to be, goes beyond politics, religion, pretty much everything.

Independent of your point of view or agenda, truth today is under assault. The impact is seen in the heated, passionate and all too often irrational debate on sexual harassment, health care, tax reform, North Korea, and Roy Moore.

Today, such monumentally important topics are all bound by an association that is at once awkward and uncomfortable. It summons conversation few are willing or prepared to have because the topic is Truth in the largest context of all: Does it matter anymore?

You may remember what George Costanza told Jerry Seinfeld back in the day:

Remember, Jerry. It’s not a lie if you believe it.

Who could have imagined the King of Angst would be so incredibly prescient?

Only now, the Truth hurts but this time not in a playful, comedic way. It’s personal.

Alternative truth, like alternative facts, undermines our confidence in our ideas, our values, our leaders, our institutions, our future, even in ourselves.
If truth can become a malleable discretionary possession, where does that leave us?

Last week on TV I watched as an older female voter in Alabama was asked if given Judge Roy Moore’s burgeoning stable of accusers, she could still support him.
She answered, Yes, emphatically, and the reporter pressed on, asking the question that had to be asked. Was it because she didn’t believe the accusers, or did what they say just not matter?

The woman didn’t hesitate. She didn’t believe them. She believed it was all made-up, a passel of lies. Whether she wore blinders or rose-colored glasses, you’ve seen this before. What’s different today is how the context and pervasive nature continues to evolve.

Bigger, bolder and scarier because it’s so commonplace. The new reality is Fake News from Fake Media delivering Fake Truth.

A big chunk of the public seems more than okay with this, while the rest of us don’t know what to do about it. Truth is no longer known and defined but highjacked and become the stuff of political alchemy.

Truth twisted, subverted and leveraged, as needed, and on-demand.

How did it come to this?

It’s in our very nature but that fact should alarm more than comfort.

Children, when caught by their parents, instinctively know their best defense is Deny, Deny, Deny. This recalls the Sales Rule of 3’s; that timeless axiom that vendors of every product or service know as a path to a successful sale.

  1. Tell ‘em.
  2. Tell ‘em, again.
  3. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em one more time.

Such repetition is also frighteningly effective with a darker purpose.

It’s simply this:

  • Say something three times and many people will believe it’s true.
  • Say it ten times and many of them will think it’s their own idea.

Bringing us back to the Honorable Roy Moore. This troubled and disgraced judge, assailed by teenage accusers, notorious for spewing ideas that scared people on both sides of the aisle, who had to be watched at high school football games because he hung around young cheerleaders, knows just how to handle it. He denies, denies, denies.

Roy says he didn’t do it, he denies everything. Alabama voters soon will decide if they believe him and give him a pass, or looking beyond politics, hold him morally accountable.

The new normal can’t be that something is true because the speaker believes it to be true, or thinks it ought ¬to be. That’s not good enough. That sells everyone short.

Because truth is what simply is. When truth is under siege, the lynchpins of society become precariously unmoored. Red or blue, young or old, rich or poor, black or white, immigrants or Mayflower descendants, there are pronounced consequences for all of us when the truth is abused and misused.

My first book, Truth Heals, (no irony there) addressed sexual harassment; I’ve long advocated zero-tolerance for it. Yet, I also believe in the power of forgiveness and second chances, but with a caveat: forgiveness that is earned by taking ownership for behavior, learning from past mistakes, and accepting the empirical truth about truth.

That truth does matter.

Because truth must matter.

For all us, from individuals and private citizens to public servants and world leaders.

One standard for all because the truth is the truth and a lie should not be weaponized.

Obliterating the truth can’t be allowed to excuse a serial child molester like Roy Moore. A man with a history of perverse behavior so widely known that as an Alabama District Attorney he was banned from the mall.

By any measure, that takes some doing.

Truth should be revered, respected and protected at all costs.

Because in the end, the truth is all we have.

hollywood sexual assault scandal

Me Too

Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood movie mogul and star-maker, has been accused of sexual intimidation and abuse by over 40 women, including big names like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mira Sorvino, and Ashley Judd. His behavior was a well-known secret in Tinseltown, but his easy ride is over. And it’s because of the power of women to speak up, to speak out and tell their truth.

Powerful, seemingly untouchable, and arrogant men are getting a huge wake-up call these days. The “code of silence” is in a death spiral. Men like Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, other offenders, and now Weinstein, have discovered that their wealth, fame, and industry clout are no longer enough to protect them from the consequences of their rampant mistreatment of women.

But getting rid of one offender or another isn’t going to change the general cultural acceptance of patriarchy and entitlement. Nina Jacobson, the female producer of the “Hunger Games,” said “We want to get to a place where the cost of silence is greater than the cost of speaking out. We want to shift the shame to the bully and away from the victims.”

California fires

Up in Smoke

Three hundred square miles of California is burning. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen a fire like this one, with over 3,500 homes destroyed and dozens of lives lost. I know what it feels like to have to evacuate, to get away from the smoke that fills your lungs and chokes you, to wonder if you will have a home to return to. Imagine losing everything—every “thing” you possess: your clothes, your photos, your electronics, your furniture, everything from your toothbrush to your car gone up in smoke. It can happen not only from fire gone wild, but also from water and wind, as in Puerto Rico, or Texas, or Florida. And you don’t need much of an imagination to understand that these superstorms are no longer rarities, but are what we can expect to happen with more frequency and ferocity.

Mother Earth is not happy with what we have done to her and isn’t going to take it lightly any longer. We have heated the planet, changed the ecology, poisoned her component elements of sea and sky and land, destroyed her biodiversity, and set ourselves on a catastrophic course of destruction. What can you do about it?

Passing through an area in northern California, on one side of the road I saw the smoldering remains of a forest fire; on the other side I could smell the smoke from another fire, mostly homes, that was still not contained. Californians know all about the autumnal “fire season.” But these aren’t the usual wildfires, so common at this time of year. My home state is in flames, with over 21 fires burning and the wind coming up again today. The fear is that these fires will merge into major infernos that cannot be contained.

The Atlas Fire is still scorching Napa Valley’s cherished wine country, and the huge Tubbs Fire has taken out whole neighborhoods in Santa Rosa. Entire towns are potentially in the path of walls of fire and are being evacuated. Tens of thousands of people have had to flee the flames that are hungrily gobbling up thousands of homes and businesses, forests, and the lives of at least 23 people (with numbers sure to rise). GoFundMe appeals are already online to help families who have lost literally everything. The Diablo winds (known as the Santa Ana winds in southern California) are fiercer than ever, hampering efforts of thousands of weary firefighters as the winds blow fiery embers flying over a mile. These hot dry winds, which pick up at night, can reach almost hurricane-type strength; Sonoma County recorded winds at 79 m.p.h.

We are seeing this new breed of unnatural “natural” disaster everywhere. Floods in Texas. Hurricanes in Florida and the Caribbean islands. Fires in the West of the US. No matter how many “deniers” there are out there, scientists agree: climate change is a major factor. We were warned that climate change would produce superstorms, and here they are. The pictures of California after the fires look like the ones from Puerto Rico – total devastation. And who knows what kind of mayhem the next winter will bring?

California has some of the most potentially dangerous severe fire weather in the U.S. Wildfires are fed by dry air, high winds, and low humidity. This past summer broke the records for heat. More exceptional heatwaves and more severe droughts set the stage for more intense fires. Even those heavy summer rains couldn’t alleviate the effects of five years of drought and provided lots of new growth for kindling. In Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, hotter gulf and ocean waters made for bigger and more severe hurricanes.

A 2012 study1 published in the journal of the Ecological Society of America, found that climate change will produce “as much as a fourfold increase” in wildfires as the Northern Hemisphere warms, with fire even reaching the Arctic, which will grow more plants capable of burning as the frozen northlands thaw. And the Gulf jet stream, also affected by climate change, isn’t delivering enough moist air and rain from the Gulf of Mexico north into the U.S. mainland. Forests absorb some of the carbon dioxide that comes from burning fossil fuels, which then leads to more warming and therefore more wildfires. More intense winds from storms (witness this year’s hurricanes) knock down “slash fuel,” the fallen branches that provide kindling to forest fires; chaparral scrublands contribute to deadly crown fires.

And the size, severity, and frequency of these fires are increasing over the years. The “wildland-urban interface” (WUI), as the U.S. Forest Service calls the places where homes have been built in what used to be wilderness, directly impacts wildfires and requires more resources to fight them. As of a 2010 study 2, almost 44 million houses were in the WUI, especially in California, Texas, and Florida. Houses are encroaching on once pristine natural landscapes, and lives are in danger. The fires that are still raging can shift direction at any time, giving people barely moments to escape the onslaught and the sheer terror of being burned alive.

What does the future hold? When will the consequences of ignoring climate change be acknowledged and acted upon?

As a spiritual teacher, I have to speak out. The time has come when we all have to take action. Especially since we are in the grips of a government intent on destroying what small efforts we have made toward protecting our environment.

Are you passionate about saving the environment—the air, water, soil, plants, animals, and people that make up life on earth? What can you do? You can offset your carbon footprint. You can power your home with green energy. You can support any of the more than 170 organizations in USCAN, the U.S. Climate Network. You can drive an electric or hybrid car. You can eat less meat (which uses the most resources to produce). You can light your house with LED light bulbs that use 80% less energy. You can follow the U.N. guidelines for climate action. Most of all, you can speak upLearn the facts about climate change and share them on social media. Call your elected local, state, and federal representatives to get them moving in the direction of tackling this huge problem before it’s too late.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.

TV Violence Huffington Post

TV Violence: Enough is Enough

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post. You can read the entire article here.

When you wake up to the news that 59 people have been murdered and over 527 more injured in Las Vegas, many of them in critical condition, and realize that one man—one!—did this to 600 people in 9 minutes, you have to wonder: why do we live in such a violent country? In the U.S., more than 30,000 Americans are killed each year with guns.1

So what did the killer do as a child? My bet is he was affected by violent shows, just like the recent Washington high school shooter, Caleb Sharpe, who was enamored of TV shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones,” and movies like “American Psycho.” 2