Live Not By Lies

Words kill. They don't kill just people, they kill ideas, and replace them with other ideas. The media today has been effectively wiping clean the slate of our national heritage, and creating a new narrative in its place. This is the culture by which future Americans will define themselves.

Gone are the Alamo and Bunker Hill; gone the Father of his country. Gone is the pride that used to shine from patriot eyes -- because we are told we have nothing to be proud of now, our entire history was one of rapine and theft, from Independence to the present.

Shame is what ought to be our portion.

So we have the story of St. Matthew Shepard -- murdered by a drug connection -- but how much better that reads if one tells instead that he was a gentle, kindly man of the gay persuasion, martyred for his choice of gender identity. Davy Crockett? No, let's have a real hero for modern times.

And Trayvon Martin -- a ten-year-old kid (haven't you seen his pictures?) cut down by a racist stalker, leaving his tea and skittles strewn on the sidewalk. No matter how many times the facts may say it isn't so, it is so: the media proclaims it.

And Crystal Mangum? There is the paradigm of our guilty past -- a poor working woman of color, mother (single mother) of two, Navy veteran, working her way through college, but condemned to exploitation by wealthy white louts. As always. Except that in this case not a single aspect of her story was true, and the louts weren't louts; and the media, and the police, had more than even enough evidence to know it all was fiction.

But that didn't matter, not for a year afterwards (even DNA testing could not clear the born-to-be-guilty). The fable had to be stamped into our consciousness, twenty-four hours a day by print and broadcast.

We are not the first nation in which the media have tried to create national myths. Hitler's Germany tried it; Orwell's 1984 showed us that he who controls the present controls the past -- by rewriting history. And those who control the past -- who write the history -- control the future.

So what kind of future will Americans -- these guilt-ridden, racist, misogynist inheritors of the crimes of their forebears -- turn out to have?

Three decades ago Alexander Solzhenitsyn proffered some advice for those living under dictatorial rule; it is applicable now to our own situation:

. . . the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, we will be obstinate in this smallest of matters: Let them embrace everything, but not with any help from me. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "Live Not by Lies" Feb. 12, 1984)

That's all. Reporters can reject the lie. Don't carry a proffered story that twists the truth. If necessary let there be a blank space in the column; an empty three minutes of air time. "Technical difficulties." Don't print the dishonest photograph.

It's not the bravest action. It's not challenging the storm and defying the lightning. It's only standing to one side instead of venturing onto the playing field.

But at least it's giving the people the chance to see an honest game, where the outcome is not rigged.

Yes -- maybe, maybe that still won't be enough.

But at least you can have clean hands.

And perhaps if there are enough who will follow suit, it can make a difference.