Thursday, April 06, 2006

Democracy Seeks Truth

Do politicians ever tell the truth?

Most words have many meanings, especially in the larger dictionaries. Between two people who know each other well, words can gain special meanings. The words before and after a word can change its meaning. Combined in a sentence, words can mean so many different things that the sentence becomes impossible to understand. You can't be sure what you heard.

Most people make the best sense they can of what they hear. If they're unsure, they determine what's most likely and decide that that is in fact what they heard. This personal act of closure is what enabled many people to believe that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Queda. Because they decided for themselves what they had heard, they owned their conclusion, had an investment in it, and defended it against all comers. Truth was known. Implication, repeated many times, became truth.

Because people do this, politicians speak in streams of code words and catch-phrases. They know how we know what's true. They know about our buttons and how to push them.

Politicians are always hoping to speak your language. Before a group of Christians, they are full of "Hallelujahs". Among veterans the code words include "Honor" and "Strength". The word "Justice" appears when they speak to the dispossessed.

It is in their best interests to tell people what they want to hear and to promise more than they can deliver. They can always play catch-up later. They get hired for their promise, not their past. We are very forgiving.

You cannot depend on a politician to tell you about his lies. He may not tell the truth.

You can depend on his opponent. An opponent may be no lover of truth, but if he can find a lie to which he doesn't also subscribe, he will expose it. It will be to his advantage.

But first the politician must be given a chance to prove the truth of his lies. Who knows, we might be wrong. Not until a project seriously fails can we know that it was based on falsehood and illusion.

Without opposition there cannot be a search for truth. Without time there cannot be proof of falsehood.

Opposition, over time, delivers truth.

The ongoing search for an agreed-upon truth is much more visible in Congress than in our elections. In Congress, almost everything proposed is opposed. Battles of words and wits shape the laws that bind us. Laws are heated in the forge of passion, hammered and shaped on the anvil of the real, then nailed like horseshoes to the hoofs of the Executive Branch, where they can help it meet the ground. The Executive promptly throws them off.

An Executive Branch leadership must be receptive to the will of the people as expressed through Congress. It must actively engage the targets of the laws Congress creates. Failing either of these it cannot hope to maintain its survival for long.

The truth will out.

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