Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

In the United States, the usual oath required of all those who will give witness in court asks: "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

[Interestingly enough, one of the first links on a Google for "Oath in Court" gave the above link about the oath in Cambodia and:
In the Cambodian legal system, an oath to tell the truth is also required. Because Buddhism--the prevailing religious belief in Cambodia--does not believe in a god, the oath is typically sworn to Buddha, the spirits of the courtroom, or the ghosts of famous Khmer warriors. The wording threatens dire punishments for those who would testify falsely:

"If I am home, let fire destroy my house for 800 reincarnations; if I am in a boat, let it sink for 800 reincarnations; when I become a ghost, let me eat bloody pus, or swim in boiling chili oil for 800 reincarnations."
We can return to this.]

In my humble opinion, Truth is the single most important commodity in the polity. When Truth starts to bend too far, the basic social contract starts to disintegrate into chaos.

However, many people assume that the human state is one where people tend to lie. I guess that I will take exception to that but maybe it should be qualified.
Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, and lessens the frictions of social contacts.
Clare Booth Luce
US diplomat, dramatist, journalist, & politician (1903 - 1987)
There has to be some Truth out there. What would happen if the nurse reported every temperature on her shift as 37 degrees? First off, I would be suspicious. Secondly, I would have a tough time doing my job. So, maybe there are degrees of Truth, as there are degrees of murder, and University degrees. I'd opt for a Third Degree Truth (if it wasn't extracted using the Third Degree, referring, I guess, to an unusually stringent questioning.)

Maybe it is just politics that admits to bending the Truth. So, it is with a great deal of irony that one observes the Attorney General of the United States approving torture, ostensibly to get at the Truth of what the inmate knew (presumably Attorney Generals take an oath to tell the truth from the word go; they don't have to take one at every session of court. Maybe they should.)

As we all know, though, confessions obtained under torture are notoriously unreliable. In this case, unreliable means not truthful. [It will be interesting to see if the current prime suspect, 23-year-old Ahmed Abu Ali has his confession from Saudi Arabia used against him. The court doesn't want to look at his back with its marks of torture. They aren't interested in the Truth. This should be very a very interesting trial. Sorry, Michael.]

But the real place that Truth should appear is in the press. It makes absolutely no sense to report a story as the Truth when it is not. Skeptical reporting, i.e. investigative journalism, may be the backbone of our democracy. It is the very nature of politicians to dissemble and only holding their feet to the the fire will keep them even slightly honest.

The Truth behind Watergate was essential. It led to dire consequences for a number of men. And the real crime was that Richard Nixon lied. The same attempt was made to pillory Bill Clinton on his supposed lie about sex. [I say supposed because I cannot imagine a sane adult who has never bent the truth about sex. Maybe some Saints, and I don't mean those that play for New Orleans. There is no Truth in this arena.]

So, where does that bring us? I think that we are in a very bad state when it comes to the Truth. There are many out there, especially in blogland and talk radio that feel that the Truth is something that, well, can be finessed. The appellation of "reality based" comes from the assertion by an administration official that they "created" their own reality. Excuse me, reality is not created as some would mold playdough. Reality comes shooting down the pike from that place called the Future. It usually is overwhelming and, in spite of a million prophets, and that includes all those cranky old men with beards in the Bible and Koran, NO ONE can predict the future. NO ONE.

It is just not possible for our country to continue to function if, at its core, there is a lie. The irony, of course, is that these people who are doing the lying are ostensibly Christians.
JOHN 8:332 NKJ
32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Isn't Freedom something that we seem to be dispensing pretty regularly recently? At the end of smart bomb, but dispensing anyway.

I just can't see where we are going. Maybe I am a lemming, way back in the pack. What I would like to be is going the other way, shouting "excuse moi."

Can you imagine George W. Bush saying:
"If I am home, let fire destroy my house for 800 reincarnations; if I am in a boat, let it sink for 800 reincarnations; when I become a ghost, let me eat bloody pus, or swim in boiling chili oil for 800 reincarnations."

I can't.

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