Parson to Person: “Lies My Mother Told Me” Jan. 8, 2021

When I was young, my mom would often send my sister Arlene and me out with our little red wagon to pick up loaves of day-old bread at the bakery downtown. It was a mile each way, and I suppose the trip took us an hour or so. Occasionally, though, the bakery was closed, and Arlene and I came home empty-handed (or rather empty-wagoned), and a little worried that Mom might be angry with us for not completing our task. She never seemed to be upset, however, and we didn’t find out why until we were grown up. That’s when she told us she sent us out on holidays, knowing the bakery would be closed, just to give us something to do (and keep us out of trouble, I suppose, though we sometimes found our way into it anyway, of course!).

I suppose you could argue that, technically, my mom didn’t tell us a lie (she never said the bakery would be open, after all), but that seems like a, well, technicality. Besides, this wasn’t the only time she withheld the truth. (I remember crying inconsolably when someone accidentally stepped on my pet caterpillar, until my mom told me that I’d see him in heaven someday–which I’m pretty sure she did not actually believe.)

My mother sometimes even stretched the truth preemptively–that is, to make us think she knew more than she actually did. (When Arlene was in her late teens, Mom once asked her, “Arlene, how long have you been smoking?” Arlene, taken aback, said, “How did you know?” Mom answered, “Well, I heard you say things like ‘Oh God’ and ‘Oh crap,’ so I figured you must be smoking too.”)

I’m not sure I have a point in bringing this up–other than to say that I suppose most parents (and teachers?) give false or misleading information at times, for what they believe is in their children’s best interests. What I don’t find acceptable, however, is when political leaders lie to us. We are not children who need to be shielded from the truth, or given upbeat “cheerleading” instead of facts. I think our nation is in a state of “truth decay” right now, and it will take some time before trust in our political leaders–and in the media–can be at least somewhat restored. My earnest hope is that the inauguration of Joe Biden as our new president may also be the inauguration of a return to honesty and civility in our country’s future.

peace and unrest,

tony