Monday, August 02, 2004

Quite a few years ago I was flipping stations on the radio trying to find some Christmas music and something this preacher said made me stop and listen. It was something about boring people being the biggest sin he could commit. I listened to the whole sermon and was thinking "No way is this guy in Oklahoma, he's too good, too liberal." I never was the kind of person that could sit through church and take what I could and leave the rest. I felt like a hypocrite. I'm amazed that Rev. Meyers exists and the fact that he is here in Oklahoma makes me believe in miracles. And I don't have to feel like a hypocrite at church.

Perhaps we prefer the lie?
Eight years ago, when I began writing for the Oklahoma Gazette, I named my column for the essential tension in life, as in any democracy: the difference between rhetoric and reality. I teach a class by the same name at Oklahoma City University because students need to learn the difference between spin and fact, between what Orwell called linguistic “insincerity” and the often painful truth. But this summer, there is no need to enroll in such a class to know the difference. All you have to do is pay attention.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by a Republican, says that not only were there no weapons of mass destruction, and no links to al-Qaida, but that Congress might also not have authorized the war against Iraq if they had known what they know now — which is the truth.

The so-called “defense of marriage” amendment failed, not because we are all of one mind about homosexuality, but because it has become abundantly clear that the whole thing has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage and everything to do with the politics of division — which is the truth.

When the British report exposed the big lie about the threat posed by Iraq, Tony Blair did what real leaders do and took “full personal responsibility.” Bush, on the other hand, in the words of syndicated columnist Maureen Dowd, “took full personal irresponsibility” and continues to press “the preposterous case that he has made America safer”— which is not the truth.
Facts are such pesky things to a true believer. Whether it’s global warming or the case for evolution, the true believer just winks at the evidence and claims that it’s all a test of faith. There are fundamentalists, for example, who believe that God placed ancient fossils in the earth to see whether we would choose science or Genesis. Meet God the trickster. And whatever you do, don’t let it slip that one can believe in both evolution and God — which is the truth.

We are all guilty of bias, of course, and prone to our prejudices and predispositions. But we are approaching a time when truth has absolutely nothing to do with anything. In other words, one can become a legend in one’s own mind and develop a complete immunity from either the truth or basic logic.

Bush continues to defend the extraordinary (and by the international standards we established, illegal) war against Iraq by saying, “So I had a choice to make: either take the word of a madman or defend America.” Any student in Critical Thinking 101 knows that this is a classic false dichotomy — and that’s the truth.

Once more comes the tired rhetoric of us against them: “We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home.” That might fly if any reasonable person still believed that we were threatened by the mighty nation of Iraq. Remember the “elite Republican Guard,” which Bush called the fourth-most fearsome fighting force in the world? Turns out, they were pathetic — and that’s the truth.

It is possible, and this is the scary thing, to become flawless in one’s illogic. That is, it is sometimes a great comfort to believe the lie and to avoid the painful truth. This is true in politics, in religion and in the family — where all dysfunction is masked by the pretense of perfection.

On the day after you read this column, John Kerry and John Edwards will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party to oppose the policies and the record of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Immediately, the character assassination will begin, and we’ll be told it’s God and country over trial lawyers and Eastern liberals.

But that’s just one more lie in a long list of lies. The truth is a senator from Massachusetts with a lifetime of public service (and actual military service) will ask Americans to choose between four more years of what we have or a bloodless chance of direction at the ballot box — which is the genius of our democracy.

The debate should not be about whether you are “with us or against us,” “red or blue,” patriotic or peculiar. It should be about deficits, education, judges, women’s rights, gay rights, decent jobs, racism, help for the beleaguered middle class and America’s reputation around the world.

But we will not survive if we prefer the lie. And we will not survive if we don’t bother to vote.

And that’s the truth.

Meyers has been senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC Church since 1985 and is a professor of rhetoric at Oklahoma City University.

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