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Telling the truth means never needing to remember what you said.
Given all the conflicting and distorted information that daily spews from the current White House, it appears its primary resident and staff are severely challenged in this area.
The Washington Post "Fact Checker" claims that the president alone committed 492 falsehoods or misleading statements—in his first 100 days in office.
You may be one of those -- and there are many -- who give the mainstream media little if any credit for making a good-faith effort to get at the truth. But even so, if that number were halved or even diminished by 90 percent, that’s a whole lot of falsehoods or misleading information that needs squaring.
All this wouldn’t be so bad if all that was at stake was the President of the United States' -- and his staff’s --- personal credibility, integrity and honor.
But what’s really in jeopardy is far more important than that. What’s really in harm's way is the credibility—and very survivability—of our Republic.
A liberal (lowercase “l”), open and free democratic government is only as good as the institutions created to sustain it. And unfortunately the trust we have in our government and the institutions that support it seem to be in free-fall.
Time magazine reports that only 1-in-5 Americans trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time, which is close to an all-time low.
To parse that even further, Gallup polls say that only 36% of us display a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the United States Supreme Court. Those would be the nine justices who are the final arbiters of our laws and guardians of our constitutional liberties—and who gave us the disastrous Citizens United ruling.
But the Supreme Court is a shining superstar compared to the Congress, with a dismal 6% approval rating. And these are the folks who make the laws we are bound to live with each and every day.
Our financial institutions (especially banks) fair little better at 27% approval, and big business stands at 18%. The media, or "free press", which Founding Father and President Thomas Jefferson proudly touted as "The only security of all,” enjoys a public approval rating of only 18%.
Anyway you slice these numbers, it amounts to a great deal of distrust in the very institutions that have sustained our tenuous experiment in democracy.
Regardless of your political persuasion, I think most would agree that the bottom line for engendering trust is rooted in possessing a deep and abiding respect for the truth, especially from those who hold leadership positions in our institutions.
And the highest of those institutions is the presidency of the United States, which ideally should stand as a role model for our values and a guiding light for all to follow.
Whether the presidency currently does or does not serve as that beacon is a matter of personal perspective and political identity. All I can say is that in the nearly 40 years I’ve lived and worked in the Washington, D.C.-area, I’ve never, ever experienced this capital city to be more divisive, deceitful, dysfunctional, disheveled, stunned, confused, rudderless -- or more shrouded in legal proceedings and conspiracy theories.
Something just ain’t right.
For the 241 years of our existence as a free nation we’ve fought wars—including with each other—struggled through cycles of recessions and a Great Depression, civil rights, women’s rights and LGBT rights movements and, yes, dirty politics and politicians, and we’ve survived it all.
To continue to survive will require a huge turnaround, a huge leap of faith amounting to a reinfusion of trust in our government.
Ironically, as a nation we have fed on a lie for centuries. The iconic story of 6-year-old George Washington telling his father that “I cannot tell a lie…I cut the cherry tree,” was an invention of one of Washington’s first biographers, an itinerant minister named Mason Locke Weems.
Weems wanted to demonstrate to his readers that their president’s public greatness was due to his private virtues. He intuitively understood that the public wanted to know—and believe—that the man about to take the helm of their fledgling country, which was struggling for its identity and survivability, much as we seem to be doing today, was a man of deep conviction and honor.
Want to know something? Many of us still want to hold on to that belief—in all of those in leadership positions, regardless of whether they lead the United States of America, a corporation, nonprofit, religious organization, or a local Girl Scout troop.
We need to trust that you’re looking out for the common good, not just your own.
And you’ll never need to remember what you say to us—as long as you tell us the truth!
Contents Copyright © 2017 by Larry Checco - All Rights Reserved
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