The Truth About Truth
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.
- Tell ‘em.
- Tell ‘em, again.
- 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.