The phrase, “his word is his bond,” once used to identify “heroes” in our midst, has fallen into disfavor. (read an interesting history of this phrase here) You don’t hear it said much anymore, in large part because of how our President has played so fast-and-loose with the truth.
It’s not so much that words no longer exist, even in this visual age. Words abound. But when words out of the White House change from day to day—often without warning or any apparent explanation–they lose their meaning.
The Washington Post is tallying a list of documented half-truths or outright falsehoods that President Trump has stated publicly since taking office. In fifteen months on the job, the Post reports more than 3,000 such misstatements. Let’s call them what they are: lies.
How can this be? How far have we fallen as a people that a major US newspaper is keeping track of the number of lies the President tells and that just over a year into his first (help us!) term, that number is in the thousands? Is there no honor? No shame?
Most surprising about this whole chain of events is how normalized it has all become, how accepted, how unsurprised we are as each new falsehood or absurd exaggeration is promoted as true. Stories change as facts emerge. Initial denials are followed by lapses in memory, followed by corrections, admissions or simple silence. Then, there is a collective shrug and everyone just moves on.
The concept of truth is treated so cavalierly in this administration that I am reminded of the 1988 film, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (or the novel of the same name by Milan Kundera) with its often-erotic analysis of the relationship between sex and love. A review by Roger Ebert at the time of the film’s release says, “the film tells the story of a young surgeon who attempts to float above the mundane world of personal responsibility and commitment to practice a sex life that has no traffic with the heart, to escape untouched from the world of sensual pleasure while retaining his privacy and his loneliness. By the end of the story, this freedom has become too great a load for him to bear.”
The unsustainable disconnect between love and sex as addressed in the film is similar to the way the President’s words are untethered to the truth. Ultimately, such “lightness” becomes unbearable and the pattern will crash and burn. The difference between the film and our current reality lies in the enormous power of the Presidency. It is not a movie script, but real lives and whole communities that are at risk.