When I was in the tenth grade, my boyfriend, a senior, lived just a few houses down the street from me. Both of us were honor students and both of us were churchgoers. We were decent kids, white Cosby kids, if you will, who wouldn’t have dreamed of smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer or doing anything in public that might embarrass our parents. And yet...
I clearly remember telling my mother one Sunday evening, “[Boyfriend’s] daddy says he can use the car tonight as long as he comes home right after church is over. Can I go with him?” Mother agreed.
I remember the phrasing about coming home “right after church is over” because I was very careful to imply –- but not to say –- we were going to church. We were not. Instead, the boyfriend picked me up in his daddy’s car and we drove to our favorite parking spot, a lonely dirt road on the edge of town, where we planned to make out for an hour and then go home, true to my word, right after church was over.
As we indulged ourselves in every teenage passion short of going “all the way,” we each kept an eye on the clock, knowing our parents would be none the wiser as long as we made it home on time. Except it didn’t turn out that way. It rained. Hard. The dirt road became a muddy swamp. Boyfriend’s daddy’s car got stuck in the mud. Boyfriend had to walk half a mile to a stranger’s house, borrow the telephone, and call his daddy. Boyfriend’s daddy, since we were in the family's only car, had to call a tow truck to come after us.
When I arrived home, two hours late, Mother was furious. “I can’t believe you lied to me like that,” she fumed. “Oh, no,” I said, “I would not and did not lie to you. I never said we were going to church; I said we’d be home ‘after church is over.’”
Mother didn’t buy it. I don’t know whether she was angrier that I twisted the truth in the first place or that I thought she was so stupid she’d accept my little disclaimer without an argument.
I mention this incident to prove that I recognize when the truth is being twisted and when lies are being fabricated by words or phrases taken out of context. I know that lies, whether by commission or omission, are breaches of trust. And, just like my mother, I am furious when I know I’m being lied to and furious that the liars think I’m that stupid.
The problem is, some people are that stupid, and some of those stupid people will vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve stated here before that I support Barack Obama, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect the opinions of those who prefer the policies and philosophies of John McCain. If you cast your vote because you’ve researched the issues thoroughly and you genuinely prefer Senator McCain’s policies, then that just means we see things differently, have different needs, different priorities. If all voters were well-informed and the majority elected a different candidate from mine, I’d accept the majority-rules philosophy with grace and dignity. You and I might stop talking politics, but we’d still be friends.
Some people, unfortunately, will vote against Obama (as opposed to for McCain) because of the McCain campaign’s attack ads and viral e-mails based on innuendos, distortions, half-truths and outright lies. I am appalled at some of the things I see on television and on the Internet that are presented as fact and that I know to be untrue. It’s a mind-warping experience to watch an entire speech one day, then see a few choice words from that speech used to portray an entirely different concept in an attack ad one day later.
There have been times in my life when I’ve voted Republican. In fact, I voted for the first George Bush, at least the first time around. It was when he ran for a second term, against Bill Clinton, that I began to sense the emergence of a vocal mean-spiritedness in the Republican campaign. It turned me off.
In the years since then, that mean-spirited, cut-their-legs-out-from-under-them attitude has gotten steadily worse. I thought John McCain would be different. He used to be different. I thought this had the potential to be a clean, high-minded campaign. Instead, it's deteriorated into the worst kind of lying, lying, lying!
Does “putting the country first” mean “winning at all costs”? Does winning an election justify gutter politics? Is it okay to tell any damn lie the public might swallow in order to get the stupid-people vote?
I don’t think so. It’s my country, too, and I want my leaders to be men -– or women –- of honor. I want to respect them. I want to believe them. I want to trust them.
I learned the hard way that trust is earned by honor and truthfulness. That’s what my mother expected from me, and that’s what I want from my president.