Politicians frequently have a problem with truth and lies. Herod did, as we have seen. So too did Pontius Pilate, who asked Jesus before he condemned him to death, “What is Truth?”
On January 6, the day for officially certifying the presidential election by congress, the president gave a speech urging his followers, wrapped in the Big Lie as well as in confederate flags and American flags and anti-semitic t-shirts and other regalia of white supremacy, to storm the capitol building where the joint session was taking place.
The rest is history.
People say, “this is not us.” I disagree. It is us. It is America’s 500 years of genocide on display and 400 years of slavery and racism on display; and 200 years of Jim Crow on display; and 400 years of white privilege on display; and an old story of police allowing evil by whites to go unanswered while those struggling or marching for justice such as Black Lives Matter gets arrested and often shot on the spot.
Sadly, a big chunk of American fundamentalist religion backed the Big Lie (one flag waved inside the capitol along with the confederate flag was a “Jesus” flag). It is us though it is not all of us.
The pus of our nation’s sick body politic has come out for us and all the world to see. This can be a very positive moment for it allows us to face the wounds and trauma of our common history. It is a moment of truth. When the Big Lie breaks down, truth may emerge. Only the truth can make us free.
The Big Lie we spoke of yesterday which declared a stolen election was disseminated by the president’s fellow politicians. Indeed, even after being forced to run for their lives from the halls of congress on January 6, 145 congress people voted to carry on the Lie and deny the president-elect his duly won electoral votes. To forsake a solemn oath of office to defend the constitution is a lie.
When we talk about lying vs truth-telling we are not speaking just of individual’s lies. We are also talking of corporate actions and lies. The media corporations became spreader of lies—indeed super-spreaders of lies–just like no mask-wearing became a spreader of the virus. Fox News enters many American homes. So do Rush Limbaugh and his many imitators, frequently full of venom and hatred and lies to tell. Social media, bounded by few if any parameters, gets on board too as a superspreader. All of it to cheer on a president offering up the Big Lie about a coming election—his own—that he could only lose if there was fraud.
Martin Buber says that only humans lie. No other species lies or tells Big Lies. A Big Lie goes a very long way—especially when the media and an entire political party with its senators and congress people, governors and state representatives, spread it.
See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 321, xx-xxviii.
Banner Image: “Jesus 2020” flag at the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Brett Davis on Flickr.
What does it mean to you to learn from Martin Buber that only humans lie? What follows from that? Does that tell us something about our beauty as a species (as well as about our capacity for evil)? Does it tell us that we are born truth seekers and truth tellers?