We cannot live in community if lies carry the same weight as truth, if bad words are allowed to destroy good ones. We cannot get used to the president’s lies. We cannot accept alternative facts. We cannot stop insisting on honesty.
Lots of people who have the Ten Commandments hanging on their wall are tempted to ignore the ninth one, but we have to keep paying attention. Presidents have been dishonest for a long time, but it has always been our job to hold them accountable. Our work is harder now, because no president of either party has had so little regard for reality. Presidents need to get in trouble when they lie.
Trump lies about the tremendous size of his electoral victory, the amazing number of people at his inauguration, and the huge number of times he has been on the cover of Time. He lies about health care, voter fraud, wiretapping, his tax returns, trade deficits, vetting for immigrants, terror attacks in Sweden, and a non-existent apology from The New York Times. He lies about things that are easily checked — like a non-existent phone call from Mexico’s president calling to praise Trump’s immigration policy.
If Donald Trump had been our first president, he would claim the cherry tree is still standing while holding an ax and eating cherries. Kellyanne Conway would roll her eyes and back him up.
We cannot say, “That’s Trump being Trump.” We cannot believe that truth does not matter, because truth is bigger than the presidency.
Last week, the president said, “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying that it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” The greatest speech began with, “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” and then answered the question. In the greatest speech, Trump called Washington a “sewer” to an audience of Scouts who began making fart noises. The leaders of the Boy Scouts say that none of them called the president to tell him how great the speech was.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who misses Sean Spicer more than she thought she would, explained that Trump did not actually take a phone call — as Trump said — but had a conversation. Her defense made the news for a day.
But this Sanders’ quote is being ignored: “I saw nothing but roughly 40,000 to 45,000 Boy Scouts cheering the president on throughout his remarks and I think they were pretty excited that he was there.”
Boys Scouts need to cheer the president. Boy Scouts need to admire the president. Boy Scouts need to believe the president. Trump’s lies are a big deal when young people cheer for a leader who does not care about honesty.
Conventional wisdom is that the lies are hurting Trump and his policies, but the truth is that lies set everyone’s pants on fire. Trump may have been elected president not in spite of his lies, but because of them. His presidency may be the result of our lack of integrity.
We have to understand that justice depends on people telling the truth. Lies are matches that destroy forests that have been growing for decades. Lies turn harmony into hatred. Lies makes us forget how good honesty is.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is no God higher than truth.” Lying hurts everyone by distancing us from the higher truth. When our leaders love partisan politics more than truth, the whole country loses its way.
We need to be indignant when the president lies. We cannot let untruths pass unchallenged without damage to our souls. We need to defend truth, because truth is our best defense.
The words we hear affect our hearts — even when we wish they did not. We are what we hear. We need leaders who know how to bless us with what they say. We need words that heal. We need words that make us better.
We need to make America honest again.