“I never encourage deceit, and falsehood, especially if you have got a bad memory, is the worst enemy a fellow can have. The fact is truth is your truest friend, no matter what the circumstances are.” – Abraham Lincoln, letter to George E. Pickett, Feb. 22, 1841

Lately the topic of truth has become very critical to my interpretation of current events. I’ve been thinking of the importance of honesty, opinions and perspectives in journalism, marketing, education, history, relationships, economics and psychology.

As most followers of this blog are already aware, I have deep depth of interest in the field of politics and have held this fascination from a very young age. I grew up believing that those we elected to present our ideas and preserve our democracy meant their words and would steadfastly uphold our Constitution and American Revolution. There was this idealistic notion I had that freedom was worth fighting for and we would do anything to achieve it. So many died, fought and took risks to maintain what they deemed a “citizen-controlled government” or “republic”. I fel his way for most of my youth. Then September 11th happened. Iraq, Iran and “Muslim Terrorism” were juxtaposed against the American Dream. During this same time I found Ani Difranco. That phase was filled with struggle, skepticism and fear… my appreciation for freedom began to transform. My parents divorced, my country went to war, someone tried to blow up my high school and I spent five to six hours a day at the piano writing songs and playing dreams of Chopin, Tori Amos, and Bartok.

Knowledge is Power
As I became involved in activism and politics at my university, my frustration with the “institution” and the money and power that appeared to control things grew. I felt the word of the people was not held in high enough esteem. I began protesting, utilizing constitutional rights of “freedom of speech” or “freedom to peacefully and publicly assemble.” Many thought I was Anti-American but I felt quite the contrary. I believed our treatment to the earth and others on the planet was critical for our country. The preservation of land and water mattered to me, and the destruction of our world made me feel like many indigenous must feel around the globe. Perhaps this was because the small town I lived in lost its vitality in the downtown district while Wal-Mart and Meijer and an outlet mall were built in the township. I really missed the cornfields. Perhaps it’s because I saw too many deer and racoons dead on the side of the road. Maybe I just got tired of shopping. But I was confident I didn’t like the way things were going. I decided to not get a car and had dreadlocks for awhile. I was a devout vegetarian. I obtained a degree in writing and became constantly connected to Emerson, Thoreau, Socrates and Plato. I began to wonder what would happen to my country in the midst of globalization and such varying economic positions around the world. I took a liking to linguistics, anthropology, Roman history, music therapy, poetry, logic, hip-hop and ethics. These disciplines seemed more relevant than math, science or business and I felt words were at the core of human interaction.

One day I went knocking door-to-door to help pass an education proposal in Grand Rapids. As I wandered the streets in the fall weather, I started talking to a fellow citizen about politics. I explained how I found our world to be crazy sometimes, how so many people lie and how I hoped to one day improve the consistency of messages. I’ll never forget how he said so bluntly, “Well Nancy, all politicians lie. They always will.” My breath escaped my lungs. I responded, “By saying this you’re normalizing it. You’re accepting this as sufficient or OKAY. And it’s not!” I didn’t know what to do with this – the idea of a widespread acceptance of falsehood conveys such lack of integrity and respect – two qualities worth prioritizing and admiring. He later told me he didn’t have much time for music these days – so busy with politics and the burdens life can create. But I sent him some songs. Thought it was important. Still remember Dylan’s statement: “This land is your land and this land is my land, sure, but the world is run by those that never listen to music anyway.”

I think lies – at their very core – are told because people are weak. We often don’t want to hurt others or make them feel unhappy. For example, many lie in relationships and instead of being honest about a lack of love or commitment will end up cheating. Ironically, in the end the truth always is discovered, even if it’s posthumously. Pain often ends up far greater than initial truths may have been. I’ve witnessed this first-hand so many times in marriages and interpersonal relationships. I’ve been a victim of and the creator of lies created for the very purpose of protection or preservation. Nobody wants to be the person in the room causing discussion of the “white elephant” but the truth cannot be ignored forever. Eventually someone will force you to look them in the eye. This reminds me of two things others have said that I cannot forget.

  • “Soft people can’t handle power cuz it’s hard.” – My friend Twiz, a comedian.
  • “Those that cannot handle the truth in small matters should not be trusted with the truth in great matters.” – Einstein.

I see this concept particularly in social issues like racism, prohibition, sexism, solidarity and protection. If one person deems it “alright” for another to lie, and everyone else jumps on board with the lie or continues to allow dishonesty, where will the leaders be found? Some truths can simply not be ignored. Resistance to the status quo requires passion, conviction and unrelenting force. Weakness is always pushed out by things that are more powerful. Since the beginning of time, in fact. Seems to me lies and control are incredibly interwoven, but the only thing we can really control is the self. (our footsteps, our surroundings, our actions, our entertainment)…

Love is the Revolution
I recently had a discussion with a friend about living in the technological age and how relationships require a great amount of trust. Today, people can forge relationships via electronics in moments and investment in others isn’t what it once was. I think it creates a huge amount of insecurity in terms of love. She said, “If people have something to hide, then they shouldn’t be committed.” I thought about this quite a bit. I’ve seen many people go through their significant other’s personal property in expectations of discovering deceit. And manifest as it will, many discover negative things. What shocks me is how people find it so difficult to tell another that indeed, they would prefer to wander or are unhappy with things. Perhaps this epidemic stems from things I’m not yet able to understand – but I believe true freedom stems from spiritual and personal elements of honesty within oneself. We have a conscious need to evaluate our actions – this is where guilt/conscience/sin is important. Some simply call it introspection/meditation/prayer.

Nietzsche says that music “is the direct copy of the will itself, and therefore represents the metaphysical of everything physical in the world.” Music and art are critical in the introspective process. One that is not introspective does not evaluate their activity and may not be honest internally. This seems important. It reminds me of Darwin and adaptation and the ability to admit when something is no longer working and change must occur. And of course change is hard but Tupac said, “That’s the way it is.” And I mean, we all know that is true.

I’ve come to a point in my life where I’d rather cut my losses and be honest regardless of the stakes. The costs of lying are far greater, particularly since I’m a writer. I can’t really avoid the truth. I don’t want anyone to pay me to write because I don’t want to sell out. A friend and fellow journalist once shared with me, when discussing the role of the news in politics, “An opinion is not news.”

I’m not sure what else I have to say on this topic, but I felt it was important to share in the context of my observations over the last few months in the middle of the GOP candidacy campaign, Trayvon Martin’s shooting, Occupy Wall Street, recession and foreclosure crisis. Or, maybe it’s just because my foot was broken and a cast had been hiding the permanent “truth” inked upon my skin. On that note, I leave y’all with these:

  • “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha
  • “This above all else, to thine own self be true.” – Shakespeare
  • Xavier Rudd’s “Messages” ::We are biding our time
    For these myths to unwind/These changes we will confront::

image from U-Street, Washington, D.C.