Pants on Fire

George Washington’s birthday falls on February 22.  Today, four days early, we’ll honor the father of our country by celebrating President’s Day in the fine old American traditions of hitting the slopes, eating cherry pie, buying new cars, and telling lots of lies.

Legend has it that George Washington could not tell a lie.  As a young lad, he bravely confessed to chopping down a cherry tree despite the inevitable consequences.

Abraham Lincoln, the other President sometimes associated with the federal holiday that falls on the third Monday of February, was also known for his truthful ways.  “Honest Abe” earned his nickname after walking several miles to return a few pennies.

The average American, on the other hand, is a mendacious creature.  There have been many projects to research how often people lie, but it turns out this is a hard thing to study because people lie about how often they lie.  It is generally accepted that most people lie between a few times and several dozen times each day.

Perhaps we can comprehend — but not condone — why ambitious people employ duplicity for personal gain.

Independent fact-checkers reported so many outrageous lies during the 2012 US Presidential campaign that the only possible explanation is that deception was executed as a carefully planned strategy and not the inadvertent result of casual misstatements.  A top aid for the Romney operation admitted that lying is the whole point of their ads.

Less clear is why otherwise admirable people make statements lacking in both credibility and purpose.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor tarnishes her reputation by claiming she never heard of the Supreme Court until she was in college at Princeton.  Sotomayor graduated Spellman, a private high school where all students take college prep courses.  Even if she had attended an impoverished public school, it would have taken a complete news blackout for such a bright girl to miss the many landmark Supreme Court decisions of the 70s.

Most bewildering, at least to me, is why the people we know tell us so many lies, both little and large.

The majority of people are terrible actors.  They are only fooling themselves if they think they are fooling us.  And to what end?  They are showing disrespect, breeding mistrust, and fracturing relationships.  Maybe they are making themselves feel better.  They are certainly not making us feel better.

As for me, I’m sticking with the truth.  If you don’t like it, you wouldn’t have any trouble finding someone else to lie to you.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

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