It’s not as if no one lied back when we baby boomers were young. But while it’s hard to quantify, it seems as if the culture of dishonesty in today’s society has become both worse and more widespread. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and publisher David Henderson writes that he sees it wherever he looks these days: up close, in his personal everyday interactions, and from afar, at the pinnacles of power in Washington.
Have we become a nation of commonplace liars?
Lying… consciously not telling the truth… has become woven into a wide swath of the American culture. We see dishonesty and hear untruths nearly every day at all levels of society. And, we witness the behavior that lying breeds.
A police officer shared with me that he and other officers no longer issue citations to people who run red lights or roar through stop signs simply because most motorists just deny it happened. The result unfortunately is a kind of anarchy on our highways, as we see.
A Lyft driver recently closed a van door on my foot. I’ve had three reconstructive surgeries on that foot, and the incident was painful. But… he denied it happened when he could simply have said, “Sorry.” A Lyft representative who called me about the incident told me, “Many people lie rather than accept responsibility.”
We may think that such prevalent lying is small potatoes when compared to what’s happening within government and business. But is it? Are people feeling so lost and impotent of any character at their core that they equate lying to a feeling of power? Is it that many people in our society have reached a point where they are so scared, so bereft of any sense of spirituality and integrity and character that their fallback behavior is a power play of dishonesty? Are so many people just so pissed off with their plight in life that lying is their way of striking back?
I took my wife’s new car into the dealership for an oil change, and it was returned with a scrape on the roof. The service representative claimed the scratch was the result of my wife driving her car under low-hanging tree limbs. In fact, he embellished it by advising that she not drive under low tree branches… which she’s never done. Yeah… right… I thought. His advice on the heels of his lie only made matters worse.
On a different level… just recently it became public that Mina Chang, the deputy assistant secretary of state for conflict and stability operations at the State Department, had falsified and embellished her background and accomplishments. She claimed to be an alumna of Harvard Business School and graduate of the Army War College… even though she did not earn a degree from either institution. She even claimed to have been featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Not true… a faked cover. She claimed to have been an “ambassador” for the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO. Not true. She also claimed to have addressed both the Republican and Democratic Presidential Convention. Another untruth. Chang has resigned but admitted no wrongdoing.
And, then, we hear that some parents cook up grandiose lies about the accomplishments of their kids simply to bribe a path for their children to higher education.
The lying and dishonesty we experience during the everyday things of life has a way of draining joy from our culture. I suppose some might chalk it up to the “little shit” stuff of life, were it not for the fact that we are literally surrounded by lies, falsehood, distortions, twisted facts, and misleading claims. Did I leave out anything? Oh, yeah… the false narratives that politicians of all shapes and sizes whip up. Because these days it comes not just from the local auto dealership but from the highest seats of power. I suspect you know what I’m saying.
The gun lobby in America is highly skilled at obfuscating debate and excusing away the growing number of mass shootings. Lawmakers, who know better, express “thoughts and prayers,” then avoid the issue with the dishonest drone of “further hearings.” All the while America is awash in guns… cheap and easy to acquire.
The President repeatedly blames “fake news,” among other things. Like it or not, he’s got a point. The media today are driven by audience share, ratings, profits. The news business is no longer about covering what’s happening in America and around the world. News, particularly TV news, has become theater. Media barons make a fortune by hyping all the drama and theatrics that politics breeds in Washington. That hype itself is dishonest.
When TV news— as it often does— adds dramatic music that’s not relevant to the news story, that is “fake news.” It’s misleading and dishonest, not to mention just plain wrong, because it’s meant to enhance impact. But, heck, I’m old-fashioned.
It’s been noted in BoomerCafé’s many essays that we’ve come a long way as baby boomers and experienced many things. “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two,” as we hear in a TV ad, and there’s something to that.
Boomers have good “B-S” detectors. Yet, what can we as individuals do about today’s culture of lying that smothers many of the good honest things that happen in our diverse society?
This I know: crises are nearly always self-inflicted. And, today’s crisis in America of lying and dishonesty is already manifesting itself in unpleasant consequences that I predict will get worse. We, as a nation, have allowed lying to reinforce a reputation for dishonesty and certainly disillusion across America. Cults are built on lies, on hate, on false narratives.
The cancer of lying eats from within.