Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Truth, Lies, and Consequences

Since I last shared my thoughts here, we’ve had a tsunami of outrage, protests, travel bans, court orders, tweets, press conferences, and anxious new reports, topped off by a moment of relief in a Saturday Night Live parody.

Facebook, Twitter, and other internet venues have become organizational tools for what is being called the resistance. Resistance is not just a political term. It’s a spiritual battle between the forces of decency and truth, and the forces of deceit and hypocrisy. It’s essential to keep clarity about what is true, what is real, and what is deception. This alone is a gargantuan spiritual task.

When I was a young child, I went to the Statue of Liberty. We actually went several times, since I grew up in New Jersey, and this was a typical school field trip. But this particular time, we visited the parents of our then-new stepmother, who’d married my dad a few years after my own mother died when I was five. These step grandparents lived on the tiny island because my “grandfather” (I am now going to call him my so-called grandfather for reasons I will get to) was an engineer who worked on the design of the museum at the base of the statue. I was about eight, and I remember walking around the few streets of small bungalow-type housing, playing on the steps of the museum, and climbing up into the statue. Early on, it was possible to climb into the torch. Later, that was changed, and only the crown could be accessed. The one thing I don’t remember was hearing or seeing anything about what that statue meant to refugees coming to America. It would be years before I would begin to comprehend that awesome and moving symbolism.

It was while I was in Ireland, 5  years ago, that I saw this photograph in a restroom. Until then, I'd heard the words "a gift from the people of France," but had never been aware of what creating this masterpiece had meant.

But even then, I was at the beginning of a family dynamic that would rest upon a foundation of deception and cognitive dissonance, and that would impact the lives of many people in future generations. The oldest of the four sons that my stepmother brought into the marriage was (and probably still is) a pedophile who victimized my siblings and me, to different degrees. We lived with this untold truth for decades, until finally at the end of her life, my sister was able to convey this to my step mother.

Living with a lie is stressful, anxiety-inducing, unhealthy, and insane.

So much so that the simple act of facing and telling the truth takes enormous courage.

When an entire family system colludes in a lie or deception, anyone who names the lie and speaks truth can be dismissed, demonized, or even expelled.

This is the nature of an addictive system, except that the lies and the layers of deception and mistrust are compounded, layers upon layers. And this is very much what is happening at a macro level in our country right now. If Trump is the identified patient, or the addict, and his staff are the enablers, Bannon is his dealer.

It’s no wonder people feel traumatized and immobilized. Other are motivated, angry, and are seeking out community to work together against oppressive orders, unacceptable appointees, and policies based upon untruths.

Most important is that we learn for ourselves how to discern truth, and how to differentiate truth from lies.

We also must have the courage to call a lie a lie, even if it means offending someone we love or whose feelings we care about.  It doesn’t need to be a fight. “Everything I have read confirms that there was never any massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, so we will have to agree to disagree.”
We are surrounded by people who live with cognitive dissonance. Our school system teaches children to believe things that aren’t true. It's not that our schools teach only lies. But they elevate mistruths through selective teaching of "facts" and by ignoring entire swaths of human history deemed too un-patriotic or controversial to be taught. People attend churches and believe literally things that are given as metaphor, as stories. People believe advertisements, gossip magazines, horoscopes, and all sorts of quackery. Simply being still, and trusting your own senses, and speaking your own truth, is an act of resistance.

From this Universalism was born, when our fore bears would not advance the falsehood that those who were not Christian would go to hell. Teaching, at first, that all God’s children would be saved, Universalists ultimately did away with the whole fable of “Hell,” acknowledging that it was a tactic used to scare people into being faithful, and reasoning a loving God would never send his creations to such punishment. Theology has continued to evolve, but this early Universalism was based upon reason, and truth.

We are all living with some distortions of truth. But how many, and how sick is it making us? Knowing what our bodies tell us about when we are allowing ourselves to be enablers or even perpetrators of a dishonest system, and finally refusing to continue, is a spiritual victory.

You will not be popular.

You will not be adored.

You may, however, be respected. At the very least, you will gain self-respect.

But you will be at peace when you go into prayer, meditation, or quiet contemplation, because you and God as you understand God, will see one another in the light of love and the certainty of truth.