Thursday, February 23, 2012
One Nation (Lying) Under God
The Supreme Court is hearing a case on lying. The issue is about “free speech.” Does one have the right to lie?
The particular case has arisen because of a law passed some years ago making it a Federal crime to claim a military award falsely. The idea behind the law was that claiming to have served with valor in the military and claiming to have been awarded a Medal of Honor diminishes the medal and the honor for all those who earned it through real service and true valor.
My guess is that the Court will strike down the law saying that the Constitution protects even lying speech. Perhaps that is a compromise we must make in order to protect what most of us consider valid speech. But such a decision will grate on the sensibilities of those who feel a strong bond with military veterans to say nothing of those who value truth in general.
We have reached the sad place in our culture where a lie is no big deal any longer. One goes to buy a used car expecting to have it misrepresented. We shrug at TV commercials that promise more than any reasonable person can believe will be fulfilled. Our politicians openly and flagrantly say one thing at one time and another on a different occasion. Their attack ads use half-truths and outright lies to destroy the character of their opponent. Their accomplishments are embellished to portray them as something they are not, nor ever have been. Governments – our own included – lie with impunity and then hide behind national security to keep us from knowing they have lied. Legislatures work in secret, signing pledges not to reveal to those who elected them the true motives behind their legislation.
So what is the big deal about claiming to have served in some war and having been awarded the Medal of Honor? Can legislators condemn such practices with a straight face when they daily seek to hide their special ear-marks and other perks by burying them in a bill that has nothing to do with the issue they are promoting? Can a Supreme Court that resists making its deliberations public really be appalled enough at such a petty lie that it would declare it punishable by law?
Like so many other “sins” in our society, we are now addicted to the lie – our system runs on it. We would bankrupt the nation if we demanded truthfulness and punished lies. It isn’t the way it should be, but it is the way it is. And that won’t change when the Supreme Court delivers its verdict that a lie is “protect speech” under the Constitution of the nation that prides itself in being “under God.” Indeed we are. . . far, far, under God.