Leftovers, Again
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Leftovers, Again

The Party of Lies.

It has been asked how children develop the ability to lie: often, when two children fight over a toy, they will not be completely truthful about their role: “he hit me” might be the argument she uses, quickly forgetting the fact that she took the toy away from her brother, leading him to strike her. When this happens, parents usually focus more on the act of revenge — the hit — than the lie that initiated it. In this way, the lie, being overshadowed, becomes normalized, or acceptable, behavior.

But is this really lying, or is it something else? How do we distinguish the difference between a “little white lie” and a “bald-faced lie?” And what about all the layers in-between?

It has been written that not all lies are the same: some lies are ‘harmless,‘ hurting no one, while lies at the other end of the spectrum may lead to violence or death.

Lies have been with us since the beginning, even in the Garden of Eden, where the Serpent lied to Eve to get her to eat the forbidden fruit. Was that a ‘white lie’ or was it the darkest of lies, leading to the “Fall of Man?” Why did Eve, and then Adam both lie? Who taught them how to lie?

As we ponder lies, the various shades thereof, and the impact of lies, it might benefit us all to think about our own lies: how we tell ‘a little white lie’ about our weight or age; how we ‘fib’ when asked if we like a certain Christmas gift; how we ‘stretch the truth’ at times to impress coworkers; how we ‘beef-up’ our resumes to secure a job; or how we ‘embellish’ our social media account to get more Likes.

“Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” Lev. 19:11

So, why then, do we all lie? Is it really lying if no one gets hurt? Is lying always a bad thing? If we lie once, can we ever be trusted again?

Consider this scenario. A Fifth-grade class is outside for recess: the kids are loving Springtime; the sounds of the playground warms the hearts of the teachers. Then the bell rings — that darned bell! Everyone knows it means you have two minutes to get lined up to get back into the classroom.

But Jimmy and Johnny keep playing on the swings, going higher and higher even as the other children run towards the building. The teacher makes the extra effort of calling out to them, “Come on guys, recess is over!” but the two boys just keep swinging. The other children have filed into the building, but Jimmy and Johnny are still swinging, and now the teacher is getting upset. “Jimmy! Johnny! Recess is over boys! Let’s go!” The boys look at each other, look at the teacher, then begin to drag their feet on the ground, slowly bringing their swings to the place where they can jump off and run to the building. As they approach the teacher, she says, “Boys, I know you heard the bell. Let’s get in the building.” Jimmy, always the leader of the two boys, speaks up: “We didn’t hear the bell.” Sounds like a plan, thinks Johnny: “Yeah, we were swinging and I didn’t hear anything.” As they pass the teacher to go inside, they look at each other and chuckle: ha ha, we got away with it.

Is this lying?

We live in a world where lying is more common than any language, any food, even any genetic characteristic. Lies have been with us since the beginning, and lies will be with us until the end. Should we be concerned with lies then, or simply the liars themselves? How can we as humans survive together when we lie so often to each other?

One of the ways to look at lies is to attempt to differentiate lies into categories, based perhaps on the impact of the lie told. The website changingminds.org has listed four different colors of lies based on the harm caused by the liar and those victimized by the lie.

White Lies are those that don’t really hurt anyone; in fact, it has been argued that a White Lie might actually help us in certain situations. Imagine meeting your future in-laws for the first time; your future mother-in-law has prepared the ‘favorite meal’ of your future spouse, and you have heard how scrum-dilly-icious it is. You bite in wholeheartedly, only to discover the food tastes like the bottom of your old sneakers. What do you say? Do you tell the truth, or do you tell a harmless little White Lie to keep everyone happy?

We have all found ourselves in situations where the White Lie finds itself jumping out of our mouths almost before we have a chance to say anything else. We have become conditioned to lie, to ease up on the truth, so as to not hurt others feelings. After all, what is a little White Lie going to hurt: just tell her the liver is the best you’ve ever had. Will it be so bad to just ‘fib’ about it this one time?

White Lies are simple, and people justify telling them to avoid hurting others, to not be ‘rude’ by telling the truth. So, how did being honest ever align itself with being rude?

Gray Lies are those lies that are told to protect others while sacrificing ourselves: Gray Lies can be thought of as the lies we use to protect loved ones, or to keep others from harm.

In the movie “A Christmas Story,” the jovial tale of 9-year old Ralphie who wants a BB gun for Christmas, Ralphie’s mother tells a whopper of a Gray Lie to save Ralphie from certain destruction at the hands of his father. When Ralphie has a fight after school one day — and curses like a drunken sailor — his mother introduces a Gray Lie when the Father asks how Ralph’s day was.

Protective as any mother Hen, Ralphie’s mother informs her husband that Ralphie had been in a fight, but that she “gave him a talking to,” and the matter was settled. The lie of omission she told — as if Dad did not need to concern himself — was used to protect Ralphie even at the risk of not being able to tell her husband the full truth. The lie she told could have caused trust issues between her and her husband, but she was willing to accept that risk to protect her first born. Did anyone suffer injury from this seemingly harmless lie? The scene ends with Ralphie telling how “after this, things were different between my mother and me.” Ralphie benefitted from his mother’s Gray Lie, and The Scott Farkus Affair — as it came to be known — was put to rest.

Lying then, can be normalized for the sake of protecting someone, for saving someone, for helping someone out of a particularly difficult situation. The Gray Lie told today, however, can quickly become the Black Lie told tomorrow, where preservation is focused solely on the liar, and the concern for harm to others is forgotten.

Black Lies are defined as those lies we tell to protect ourselves; they are rooted in self-centered motivation, lies told to avoid self-harm, or to gain something we desire. In today’s world, it is the politician that uses the Black Lie more than most, lying about their opponent’s record or stance on key issues. Political ads were born on Madison Avenue — the home of marketing in America; is marketing all lies?

Marketing, or the presentation of products, has used Black Lies for years to sell products. From Oil-of-Olay to Extenze, marketing teams have lied to Americans repeatedly about what their products can do for them: from reducing wrinkles to increasing the length of one’s penis, we have all fallen prey to these ads.

Kellogg’s, America’s largest cereal producer, has been sued numerous times for falsely deceiving consumers about product claims. As recently as 2013, Kellogg’s was telling Americans that eating Mini-Wheats could improve their children’s attentiveness, memory, and other cognitive functions.

We’ve all been bamboozled by relentless marketers trying to convince us to use this product or that, and if we do, we will look like the model on the screen, with the perfect smile, the happy family, and the wonderful life. It is all one big, fat lie.

Today’s marketing has become even more clever. Insurance commercials no longer sell insurance; they sell storylines about Flo and Jamie, the deep-voiced All*State guy, Limu Emu and Doug, or Jake from State Farm. Consumers are so taken with the storylines, they hardly recognize they have been told how much they can save by switching: is it really possible to save by switching from one to the other, then back to the first — I mean, can we save every time we switch? Or is someone lying to us?

The harm of marketing is that it can use lies, distortions, half-truths and more to trick us into believing something that really does not benefit us but directly benefits the company. While switching car insurance companies may save you money, you won’t save if you switch, then switch again, then again, and so forth. Your wrinkles won’t fade to the point where you’ll look like a model, nor will your child suddenly become a Rhodes Scholar because you serve them Kellogg’s Mini Wheats. These Black Lies convince us of something that most likely won’t happen, but they are so convincing, we believe it — and we buy it. Companies spend billions collectively on marketing each year. The biggest sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl, has become the day when we all watch to see the latest new ads, as if we needed another reason to be drawn into the marketing typhoon. We watch because the ads are funny and the storylines clever, giving us all more reasons to love a product we might never try otherwise.

The Black Lie uses our own weakness against us: our craving to be popular, beautiful, successful, wealthy and more are all wrapped up in marketing lies. The companies gain great sales, while the consumer ends up buying a lot of face creams that don’t soften wrinkles, cereals packed with too much sugar, and insurance that cancels after the first claim. Black Lies benefit the liar, but victimizes those being told the lie.

The last, and the most dangerous lie, is the Red Lie: these lies are based on revenge, on spite, on total disregard for the harm they cause to others. With Red Lies, the liar cares nothing for the harm caused to himself or for the damage it does to others.

Red Lies are most commonly associated with someone who is a pathological liar — one that lies regardless of the situation. Pathological liars suffer from mental health issues, and truly may not be able to stop themselves from lying. For these people, their words aren’t lies — it is the truth as they know it. These folks don’t just have a foothold in the Land of Lying; they own a beach house there. Like a plate of spaghetti, every lie they tell is wrapped around other lies. A pathological liar tells Red Lies with regularity, but may not even recognize it due to their severe mental illness.

Red Lies can be told by anyone, not just someone with a mental health issue. They are rooted in revenge, with the intention of harming someone else as a means to get even. The teller of Red Lies has no regard for the outcome; they only seek ‘justice.’ In their minds, lying is all part of their scheme to bring down the enemy, even if it means destroying themself in the process. Changingminds.org defines Red Lies as those that are “driven by the motive to harm others.”

Beyond lies, we also have a plethora of misinformation floating through our society masquerading as fact. While I support science, and truly believe good science saves many lives through medicine and technological development, unproven science — passing itself off as fact — has deeply infiltrated our lives. Two scientific theories — not proven facts — that are continually being taught to our children are the Theory of Evolution and the The Big Bang Theory. Neither of these theories are facts, but they are taught in schools and our children end up believing them as facts. While teaching our children these theories is not necessarily a lie, limiting the teaching to only one theory about the creation of the universe, or how man got here leaves our children knowing — and thus having — only one idea to consider.

Here’s the problem with teaching our kids these theories. Think about The Big Bang Theory for just a minute: it postulates that all matter — at one point in time — came together in one spot, then through some event, was blasted across the universe. (Our children are also being taught unproven science about Black Holes: Black Holes are collapsed stars where gravity is so dense that not even light can escape.) Well, if light cannot escape the gravitational pull of a Black Hole — which is just one collapsed star — how could anything escape all the mass in the universe that has been brought together in one spot prior to the Big Bang? The largest singular mass ever would not permit the escape of anything, even with the most powerful explosion ever! But our schools and our teachers — who our children see as authority figures — teach this theory to our children, and they believe it as fact. Science theory differs from science fact, and this difference has contributed to the national debate when it comes to trusting science.

Lies, misinformation, clever marketing, deception — coupled with unquestioned authority — has led us to a very dangerous place in this country. That place is today’s Republican Party.

For more than a decade, the Republican Party, aided by its media sidekicks of Fox News and talk radio, has spread the worst, most hateful lies in America, designed with the full intent of harming those the right sees as the enemy: Democrats. From the lies of radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh to the conspiracy theories propagated by QAnon, the Republican Party has become the Party of Lies. And no one represents the despicable lies of the Republican Party better than Donald Trump, the twice-Impeached former president.

Trump’s rise to the head of the GOP began with — as one might expect — a lie. For Trump, it was the Birtherism lie, the tall tale that Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, was not born in America, was not a U.S. citizen, and was therefore ineligible to hold the office of President. Many saw Trump’s lie, and his voraciousness in pursuing it, as a harbinger of things to come: if Trump was willing to lie about Obama so openly, so blatantly, he might be willing to lie about anything.

And he did.

During Donald Trump’s four years in the White House, The Washington Post kept track of the number of lies he told: 30,573 is the number of lies told by Trump during his presidency, an average of more than 21 lies per day.

Twenty-one lies per day for Donald Trump, as President of the United States: most people do not lie twenty-one times in a year; some, not twenty-one times in their life.

Donald Trump is a pathological liar, and the lies that he told cover the entire range of the four colors of the liar’s color grid. The lies, the deception, the distortion of facts put on display by Donald Trump has led other Republicans, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, to use lying to get elected to Congress.

One may wonder how it is that a liar such as Trump could rise to the highest office in the land; how is it that his lies didn’t catch up to him before this?

Believe it or not, it’s actually quite simple.

When children are young, they are cared for by their parents: the parents provide for all their needs, and the children learn quickly to trust their parents. As the child matures, he is taught by his parents to follow certain rules: we say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please.’ We are polite, we share, and we listen to our parents, and to those in authority. By the time the child enters school, he already knows the teacher is the authority figure, and the child accepts the fact that the teacher can be trusted, and should be listened to like his parents. In church, the child is taught to listen to the Sunday school teacher, and if he goes to daycare, he listens to the folks in charge there. Everywhere the child goes, he is conditioned to trust authority figures.

We are all taught to accept authority figures as trustworthy: the two concepts are indelibly connected through societal lessons. Skepticism, the concept of questioning authority, is a lesson learned much later in life, perhaps not until a child is mature enough to live on his own.

When we teach children to trust authority figures, we are trying to teach them respect and obedience: unfortunately, when the authority figure lies — or commits other heinous acts by abuse of their authority — we end up with children who are traumatized by the very system they live in. Since children are at the bottom of the power structure in our society, they have little power to challenge the abusive behavior of authority figures — even lies.

The President of the United States is the penultimate authority figure; as the leader of our democracy, and the Commander-in-Chief, the president wields great power over the susceptible minds of the vulnerable. For those who never developed a healthy level of skepticism, being drawn into a web of lies told by such a figure happens almost automatically. The ability to speak out against authority is not clearly addressed in many families, especially not in those that continue to teach their children to respect one’s elders without question. The danger comes when children, who learn to blindly accept whatever an authority figure says, become adults and continue to listen to an authority figure — like Donald Trump — who lie with nearly every breath.

From snake-oil salesmen to Covid-19 phony pharmacists — like Patricia Derges, who said she had created a ‘cure’ for coronavirus — people have been abusing their positions of authority throughout time. People trust because they have been taught to trust, and the one in authority who looks to take advantage knows that, and seizes on the opportunity that they can sucker someone with their lie. Donald Trump used lies every day to convince the gullible — those who trust too easily— that he alone could fix it, that he alone was telling the truth, that the Democrats were vile, scum, and were stealing the nation away.

Donald Trump is a cunning liar, and he took advantage of the trust people placed in him as President of the United States: he told every type of lie in every way necessary to sway those who trusted him. Just as they trusted and listened to their parents, they trusted and listened to Trump.

Unfortunately, they were hornswoggled. For four years, Trump’s faithful followers believed everything he said.

When he told them, in 2016, that Mexico was sending rapists, and that he would build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it, they believed him. When he told them that Muslims were the number one threat to America, and that he would stop them from coming in, they believed him. When he told them after the audit on his taxes was complete, that he would show his taxes to everyone, they believed him. When he told the people in my hometown that he was bringing back the steel and the coal jobs, they believed him. And like a thousand other Trump promises, his followers believed everything he said.

But — he lied. He lied when he made the promises, and he lied when he posted banners at his rallies claiming “Promises Kept.” Trump fulfilled none of his campaign promises: what he did was to lie to his followers about the coronavirus, calling it the “Democrat’s new hoax,” telling the nation that “we’re going to go from 15 cases down to next to nothing,” and he lied when he told Americans that wearing a mask was optional.

Trump lied and Americans died.

Donald Trump is a pathological liar who used Red, Black, Gray, and White Lies every day in every form to benefit himself alone.

And while all of that is terrible, and I mean really awful, it is not the worst of it. Because Donald Trump is more than just a pathological liar, obsessed with lying about everything, everyday. Donald Trump is now a killer, responsible for the deaths of at least five Americans.

Beyond all the different colors of lies, Donald Trump used what is known as “The Big Lie.”

The Big Lie, a phrase coined in Nazi Germany, is the use of propaganda to convince people of a lie so big they couldn’t believe it was a lie. The theory works like this: if you tell the people something that seems improbable, they may not believe it. In order to convince them, you keep telling them that it is true, and you say it so often, repeating it over and over, with other authority figures joining in, so that eventually the people come to accept it as the truth. The Big Lie is told so often that they believe what you tell them is true, and never again doubt what you tell them.

Hitler convinced his followers that Germany had not been defeated in ‘World War I; he convinced them that Jews were responsible for the economic problems Germany was having; and he did all of this with The Big Lie. Once the people put their trust in him, he could get them to do whatever he wanted.

Donald Trump created his own version of The Big Lie: the presidential election of 2020 was stolen from him and the nation. His followers had listened, and believed him, for more than four years: they adored Donald Trump. They believed he created a great economy; they believed he defeated ISIS; they believed he had overcome coronavirus. So, when Donald Trump told his followers the election had been stolen, they believed him. He told them the voting machines had changed votes and that the Democrats had brought in sacks of votes at night — and they believed him. He told them that the judges hearing his appeals about voter fraud were refusing to hear the evidence — and they believed him. He told them that judges and Democrats had changed the rules about mail-in ballots, that they had cheated — and they believed him. And he told them that Mike Pence could throw out the Electoral College votes all 50 states had sent to Congress and could save the Trump presidency, and the nation — and they believed him.

Donald Trump told The Big Lie, that the nation was being stolen away from them and that they needed to ”stop the steal.”

And they believed him.

We know where Trump’s lies have led; the damage caused by the lies he has told in his political life is astounding.

Although Trump made these unsubstantiated claims, all 50 states — including dozens run by Republicans — certified their vote counts. Trump took his case to federal and state courts, losing over 60 times. Although he had two months to present any manner of evidence to those states, to those courts, or to the American people, Trump failed to produce even a shred of evidence of fraud. His own Attorney General, who investigated Trump’s claims of voter fraud, found no evidence.

But Trump refused to acknowledge his loss. Instead, he continued to lie to his supporters, telling all manner of lies to anger those who supported him. Through rallies, Twitter, and mailings, Trump continued to lie about the outcome of the election, raising the ire of his supporters nationwide.

After the Electoral College met on December 14, declaring that Trump had indeed lost, he opted to invite his followers to come to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 — the day Congress would read the Electoral College votes and officially declare Joe Biden the winner. Trump’s supporters came by the thousands, convinced by his lies that the election had been stolen, and that the nation would end if Joe Biden was permitted to take office — all lies Trump had told them. Those supporters brought weapons, bombs, tear gas, flag poles — all manner of items they used in their assault on the U.S. Capitol.

From the ellipse of the Capitol, Trump gave his followers clear and commanding language to “go down to the Capitol” and to “fight like hell.” He invited them, then he incited them, and they obeyed, overcoming the Capitol Police force and breaching the walls to enter the temple of our democracy.

This was Donald Trump’s army: he told them where the fight would be; he told them when the fight would be; he told them who they would fight; he told them why they should fight; he told them how to save the nation — by fighting. Donald Trump organized this army; he enraged them with his lies, he encouraged their violence, then he watched — without stepping in to stop them, as his oath requires — as they pillaged the home of the Legislative Branch of our government.

Donald Trump is solely responsible for all that happened, including the death of five Americans — one, a Capitol Police officer — that day. His lies led directly to the insurrection, a national tragedy.

Lies may come in various shades, colors, or flavors, but the differences are extraordinary. White Lies are spontaneous, harmless, and do not threaten our existence. Lies at the other end, however — the sinister Red Lies — and those who perpetuate them — devise and scheme to harm others. All lies are not the same, and all liars are different. What lie is used, who tells it, and for what purpose, plays a pivotal role in how society responds. We teach children to tell the truth; when they continue to lie as adults, and use lying as their native tongue, they face much more troubling consequences.

How to deal with lies, and liars, in a world where honesty and integrity are honored, is a challenge we have yet to conquer. Perhaps the more honest question is

‘Has man learned how to lie, or does he still need to learn…how to tell the truth?’

In the Garden, God warned Adam that if he ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would die. After eating fruit from the forbidden tree, God did cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden, holding true to that promise. Consequences.

Separation from God is death: separation from the truth is dishonesty. The Party of Lies — the Republican Party — has embraced a Liar as their standard-bearer, and the only correction possible is to throw him out of their garden, before they all are cast into Hell.

And that’s no lie.

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©Timothy J. Sabo



I have been writing on Medium since 2017, but I didn’t know about online pubs then, so a lot of my early stuff never got published in an online publication — and no one saw them. I’m sure you have a lot of good stuff that needs to be shared too. Send it over, and I’ll publish it.

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