The Lie and The Metaphor

I grew up in a Funeral Home. I knew about death and practicalities of addressing death, it was a blunt reality. Death was a daily component of my life so I understood it on that level. What I didn’t understand was the way other people addressed the topic. Their language was full of softer words like passed, or passed on, passed away or gone to a better place and even ‘kicked the bucket’ which tried to lessen the impact of the word ‘death’.  They have met their maker, gone to heaven, bought the farm, or given up the ghost as substitutes are easier than saying, ‘she died’. The goal is to avoid discomfort and mask the permanence of death.

Since I only ever heard the blunt truth at home I would easily become confused with the euphemisms of the world. This would make me upset. I was well into my teens before I figured out what R.I.P. meant on all those cartoon tombstones, I never saw it on the real ones. In well-mannered society, people hide behind pleasant words; I was simply confused by them. They weren’t saying what they meant. I’m not afraid of dying so the words don’t bother me. I’d prefer to stick around and experience more of my existence, but the condition of being dead seems quite natural too. I will live on in the memories of those who encountered me in life and my composite chemicals and minerals will return to the earth to continue the process of nature.

People prefer the gentle lie over harsh truths. We mask the hard edges of emotional extremes with manners and polite words. We formalize the events of life with rituals and build elaborate myths to dull the impact of death. An Easter Bunny myth moderates the violent death-myth of a deity. Labeling the day of Jesus’s death as “Good Friday” is an early example of truthiness, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. What I’m saying is that lies are not necessarily bad. They assist us communicate the hard realities. Metaphors are lies too. They are acknowledged to be what they are, in order to assist communication. I hate reducing the poetic elegance of a metaphor into “lie” but it is. When lies are meant to assist communication we find them acceptable and even artistic on occasion. The difference between the art of language manipulation and blatant falsehoods is one of extremities.

Speaking untrue statements with the malicious intent, to mislead or deceive is harmful; these are lies. There is no good purpose to that deception. Intent separates a malicious lie from other figures of speech and minor untruths. What is the intent of the speaker of lies? Who are they harming by making the statement? Why would people cause harm through lies? Well, that is a bigger topic than one expects to find in this discussion. Lets just say for now that evil exists.

What compels a serial teller-of-lies to do so? We seem to have a President who tells lies with the ease of a poet using metaphors. He sprinkles his statements with falsehoods as if he were clarifying his point. The problem is we are not sure how to take it. His spokespeople tell us to ignore his words and listen to his heart. No one seems to know how to do that, so that advice doesn’t really help.

TruthinessdictStephen Colbert brought us the word “truthiness” in reaction to deceptive practices of the political right. Instinct, lies and gut feelings guide truthiness not logic or reason or facts. The right to discriminate is called Religious Freedom, Fresh Air legislation allows for more pollution, you know, that sort of thing. Religious Freedom sounds great, but if your religion is immoral enough to cause you to discriminate, then how is that freedom for the excluded class it creates? Deceptive tricks like this are not the way to run a country. Deception through misnomer is wrong. It is also a favorite tool of the Republican party, so after George Bush did such a bang-up job with the economy and getting us into some wars, Republicans thought they would try kicking it up a notch by electing Trump.

He is a far better liar than Bush. He doesn’t care if what he says make sense at all. His bullshit is not meant to be understood. So, forget about kicking buckets – it is best to call death, death in this circumstance. Although, kicking something may be quite satisfying. We just need the plain-spoken truth.

His most dangerous lie is the one that takes away our diversity. His staffer, Michael Anton speaks vociferously against diversity. This manifests in acts of omission such as leaving the mention of Jews out of the Holocaust Remembrance. Trump’s inaugural speech said nothing about the vast diversity of the country when other politicians make sure to mention every group they represent. Native Americans are not a good enough reason to stop the pipeline, and Mexicans are a good reason to build a wall. Christians get preferential treatment at the borders. If things go Trump’s way the melting pot of America will become a cold hard lump. And that, my friends, is a metaphor.