Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ten Commandments

A great deal of controversy has been in the media regarding displaying the Ten Commandments in court houses and schools. Great many people would like to forget the principles of our Constitution, including the separation of church and state, and create a new fundamentalist America. That is exactly what even more of our 1.3 billion Muslim counterparts are keen on doing in their part of the world. The Age of Reason seems to be gone forever.

The Ten Commandments cover a lot of ground, telling us not to kill or steal. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife… or his ox or his ass…” Curiously absent is lying. The only reference to it is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This seems more like a legal issue, not condemning lying per se.

We have become a society of liars. We are more willing to accept lies than the truth that might be upsetting to some of us. Nowhere is it as obvious as in politics. People turned to Fox News during the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, just because their coverage seemed to make this country the most victorious, and constantly reminded us how justified the war was, due to the imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction. Just remember the last presidential election. People who never have even met Kerry testified on television ads that his war injuries amounted to nothing. During the Vietnam War (sorry, Conflict), our military forces claimed to have killed more enemy combatants than the population on North Vietnam was. What a miracle that those dead people were then able to defeat us. During the Cold War years I sometimes listened to a propaganda station transmitting from Portugal. They played the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth on the timpani, then a deep male voice would announce slowly: “The West can, and will, win”. All propaganda is based on lies. Why we are so ready to be so gullible remains a mystery to me.

An honest politician is an oxymoron as a term, and we are willing to accept that as a fact. Promises are easy to make but hard to keep. And isn’t everyone running for an office more interested in making his/her opponent look bad, no matter how, instead of trying to convince voters that the candidate deserves their vote on his/her merits and ideas alone? What about the rest of us? How many cheat on their income taxes? What about colleagues who give expensive music lessons and insist on being paid in cash, not to leave a trail? It is easy to manufacture phony meeting notes or other documents. Enriched uranium from Niger, anyone? Honesty doesn’t seem to be a desirable character any longer.

Having come from a family where the greatest sin to my strong-willed mother was lying, I have accepted the same philosophy and passed in on to my children. Sure there are times when telling the truth might not be wise under the circumstances, but one can in that situation be quiet, instead of coming up with something untruthful. Often silence is golden.