Friday, May 13, 2011

LIARS AND LYING


In America the beautiful, the only country I really know, lies and liars are embedded in our history.

(I'm remembering some of my lies. Age 15, I told "Dance Magazine" that I was a college grad, and worked as its advertising manager till they asked for my credentials so that they could give me a raise. Telling the truth, was not my tradition back in my job hunting days.)

So, did the practice in our country start before or after Nixon's wiretapping and Watergate scandal, and President Nixon's resignation so he wouldn't be impeached?

On TV, we have Pat Buchanan, ex-senior adviser to Nixon, author, syndicated columnist, commenting and advising us -- despite his somewhat shady background -- about what's happening in politics and what to believe in.

Former President Bill Clinton blatantly lied, under oath, about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and in 1998, he became the second president in U.S. history to be impeached. (Andrew John son was the first.) Even so, Clinton's become a beloved statesman, and often represents America in major national and international venues.

Barry Bonds, the "home run king" was probably on steroids, but he's been acquitted twice by juries deciding he wasn't on steroids.

(I've sympathized with Barry. There were "leading dancer" exaggerations in my program bio that was given to audiences wherever I performed with my Dance Drama Company. It was occasionally embarrassing -- I name-dropped my work with Martha Graham and George Balanchine, though I was never officially part of his or her company.)

Lies, when you're coming up in the world, are often considered expedient. Martha Stewart, authority on homemaking, and heroine for many women, manufactured proof that she wasn't involved with "insider" trading, " and she was convicted and jailed for it.

The Kennedy family ... They were not the beautiful family that they presented to us -- JFK, RFK, Joe, and Ted -- their illicit affairs were a well-known, fascinating, sort of hush-hush, national sham. And Ethel and certainly Jackie participated, by playing "happy, loving wives."

Now we've got Cheney still praising the lies that President George told. And Bush-the-elder lied to help President Reagan's cover-up, and substantiate Oliver North's lies. No doubt about it -- lies breed lies.

On and on goes the liar's list, with well-established writers' names on it.

James Frey's book, "A Million Little Pieces," was a bestseller, thanks to Oprah Winfrey, till Oprah learned that parts of the book had been fabricated. Stephen Glass, writing for the New Republic Magazine was fired for creating fake facts, fake websites and phony sources. A New York Times reporter was fired when he was caught plagiarizing and making up parts of his stories. A Washington Post reporter had to return her Pulitzer Prize -- she made up the entire "true" story of a drug addicted eight-year-old, but sold the movie rights to it.

Win some, loose some ... Some lies put money in the bank.

How in the world can we hope that school kids aren't seeing, learning, absorbing the fact that some very great, respected, successful men and women have lied, cheated, or distorted the truth.

Yes, when I was six, I colored a picture of young George Washington, cutting down a cherry tree with his hatchet. His father asked angrily, "George, did you cut down that cherry tree?" Though George was scared, he replied,."Father, I cannot tell a lie, I cut down that cherry tree."

I was impressed, but it didn't stop me from lying when I needed a job, or shading the truth as I was starting my career. Was that kind of thinking -- need -- behind Nixon's criminal behavior, or the other guys' falsifications?

My parenting, days are over, but we have to find ways to ingrain in our children the need to know and speak the truth.

(So, are there lies in my profile? No! If I can't tell the truth, or don't want to tell the truth, my tradition is to say nothing. just skip the question.)

2 comments:

Linda Phillips said...

Em we all lie when necessary. I remember my resume, when I was a kid actress. It was jammed packed with lies and gross exaggerations. My acting coach, a woman whom I held in the highest esteem, helped me write or update my resume a few times. She would say put in this or that. At first I questioned her. Tell a lie? She said that I had to and that no one would check. Shows that I had done in Drama Camp, became Summer Stock and so on.

When I changed careers and became a Commercial Interior Designer, I was already well schooled in the art of lies and gross exaggerations on my resume. Its the only way to get a job when you are new and starting out.

None of my lies ever hurt anyone. I would never ever tell a lie that would cause anyone harm. In fact, on occasion,I have lied in order to protect someone.

Steve Cates said...

Emily, I am not a convincing liar, so I don't even try. I always remember what Thumper said in BAMBI when asked what his father told him -- "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all!", and so instead of lying, I think silence is usually the best policy. You generally always get caught in your lies anyway.

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