Lying low 


Call me quaint, call me old-fashioned, but I've always had a certain preference for the truth. And though it isn't a very admirable trait, when I'm lied to, I tend to get angry. And lately I've been getting angry a lot. Perhaps it's the burgeoning number of people who tell me on the phone that they'll "get back to me" -- and then never do.

Or maybe it's not the personal slights alone, but their combination with all the official lies that are getting to me -- the ones that seem to emanate endlessly from the various talking heads who front for all the various politicians and leaders who don't seem to be able to speak with any tongue other than the one that's forked.

Could it be George W. Bush's cronies -- the energy-industry flacks who now pretty much run the administration -- telling us that we needed to tear apart the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in order to make us "energy independent," even though the six months' worth of oil to be found there wouldn't even have been available for 10 years?

Last week, the Bushies were telling us that they had no part in the aborted coup attempt in Venezuela. But, of course, that's what previous administrations told us about Chile and Guatemala and Nicaragua. And they all turned out to be lies.

Maybe I'm just angry at the whole idea of a Bush administration in the first place, seeing as how its entire legitimacy rests upon a lie perpetrated by the Supreme Court all those months ago.

Perhaps it's the Enron/Arthur Andersen corporate lies that offend me so much; the ones where workers and stockholders are told how much money they'll soon be making, while the guys at the top know all the time that the house of cards is just a Jack away from collapse.

And God forbid the Catholic Church would actually be guilty of lying for years about the pederasts in its midst -- those nice neighborhood priests who preyed upon generations of trusting and innocent choir boys!

Anybody notice any veracity coming out of the Middle East lately? Arafat lies; Sharon lies. The truth in that part of the world shifts faster than the desert sands over which those sad and sorry souls have been killing each for eons.

Even the movies lie. Last week, I saw "A Beautiful Mind," the award-winning film about the seriously deranged Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash. I enjoyed it. That is, until a little postviewing research led me to realize that I'd been lied to -- again.

Where were the scenes about the more unsavory aspects of Nash's sexual and romantic exploits -- for example, his fathering and then abandonment of a child before his marriage to Alicia Larde, the film's long-suffering wife? And why was it so necessary to suggest that Nash's spouse stuck with him through all the years of painful mental illness, when the truth is that they divorced back in 1963?

Why isn't the truth sufficient? Why must everything be hidden behind a wall of unreality?

In seeking an explanation for my anger, I remembered something comedian Lenny Bruce wrote nearly 40 years ago, after President Kennedy was killed in Dallas. At the time, an official story concerning the assassination was that when the president's wife, Jackie, was climbing toward the back of the limousine moments after the fatal shots were fired, it was because she was trying to "get help" for the wounded chief executive.

Bruce's contention was that, in truth, Jackie simply reacted as any normal person would do under the circumstances, and was actually attempting to "haul ass" out of the car after seeing her husband's head explode in front of her eyes. Bruce was enraged because the canard set up the false notion that anyone who -- in similar circumstances -- might do less than what Jackie had supposedly done, would be forever ashamed of her cowardice for not acting like the "good Mrs. Kennedy."

For Bruce, the comic who was harassed and hectored for supposed vulgarity in his act, the true indecency was in not accepting the truth of our natures. The real crime was the refusal to acknowledge that fear for one's own safety is not dishonorable; that people don't always stay in bad marriages; that governments aren't always noble; and that sometimes people do "bad" things. They even lie.

I suppose I even lie myself, from time to time. I don't know. I'll have to think about it. In any case ... I'll get back to you.


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