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I found myself last week justifying at least a skirting of the truth for political expediency. It got me to thinking.

What are the parameters of what is acceptable in shading, avoiding or otherwise manipulating the truth? Is there ever an occasion when lying is appropriate? Is silence lying or simply good manners? Is truth obligatory even when no one is asking for it?

Have no fear, you are not going to find the answers to these questions, and a hundred others, here. I simply want to explore the edges, determining if it is possible to elicit a ground rule or two, flush out a general point around which we all can agree.

Some Muslims, perhaps many in fact, object to Senator Obama posting on his new site Fight the Smear the fact that he is not Muslim. Attaching this correction to this site makes it appear they claim, that it is a smear to be called a Muslim. I explained that the claim, is untrue, and that the smear word is simply the title of the website. Of course, my reply is but an excuse. I went further of course, and explained that given political realities, Mr. Obama needs to make it most clear that he is a Christian. The reality of course is that he does not. Those that continue to believe and espouse that Mr. Obama is Muslim know better. They are lying for quite obvious reasons.

This sort of thing is indicative however today in American politics. A number of black “intellectuals” have pointed out that many blacks are somewhat disgruntled over Obama’s failure to address typically “black” issues. And this is noticeably true. Again, this is political expediencey, for the biggest obstacle that the Senator has is to convince white working class folks that he will put their interests on an equal footing with those of black folk.

This certainly explains the stance or failure of stance, but it does not address the core issue. Is this right? It seems that all national campaigns devolve into this kind of skirting of the truth these days. Each candidate willingly compromises his/her truest beliefs often times in an attempt to be “all things to all people.” Every single vote can be critical and every possible effort is made to offend the least amount of people. So everything is watered down to the degree that is deemed essential to preserve on “our side” the greatest numbers of potential voters.

Could it be possible that in fact the electorate my respond with utter joy to a candidate who really did speak her mind? I mean in every respect? I really don’t know, but I am confounded that we don’t ever seem to try. Or have they tried and been soundly defeated. I confess that I have paid little attention to Dennis Kucinich over the years. I find him a delightful elf of a man, and I agree with his doggedly truth speaking ways. The same can be said for Ralph Nader. Are they losers in the public arena because they speak the truth? Or are they losers because the truths they speak are not the ones that resonate with the public? 

Al Gore certainly understandings about an issue whose time has come. He has talked about the environment for years to no avail for the most part except to those of us who are typically called “tree-huggers.” Now his time has come, and his message is thoroughly embraced by most all the electorate, except for those still stubbornly buying into certain Republican rhetoric that not so secretly simply speaks for big business (read oil).

So, it is you see a bit harder to define what is going on that one might believe at first glance. Now some say that truth is also subject to another important disclaimer. If the issue is quite complicated and if your audience is let’s say not well versed in its intricacies, perhaps a certain untruthness is necessary. Why? Because the truth might get “misused” by those not able to negociate the tangle of facts necessary to place it in proper prospective. That is a nice way of saying, “you’re just a tad too stupid to understand the complexities here. Trust me, I understand them, and will represent your interests properly.”

This lovely excuse has been the stalwart “truth” of the Bush administration. It still it. It is practiced most ingeniously by Dick Cheney, who I don’t think has ever met anyone as smart as he thinks he is. His utter and complete disdain for the rest of his American citizenry is palpably both absurd and obscene. But he is far from alone.

 This technique has been used to extremely well by Rove and his cohorts. They sucked in the working class religious right with exactly this type of thinkspeak.  A class of people who have exactly NO native interest in Republicanism find themselves voting like little robots under promises that Republicans will turn the country into their glorified version of a City on the Hill. They re-enforce that by gunning the American ideal that “real” Americans make it on their own by good hard work.  That allows the big business element to go blithely on their way without being questioned as they rape the economy and move their money into safe havens overseas.

All the while, Republican Bigwigs laugh at the silly duped public who buy their rhetoric. It of course re-enforces their thinking that they are right in their conclusions. A segment of America is just that gullible. Unfortunately for them, or fortunately for us, enough of us failed to surrender our brains, figured out their game, and have mounted a rather effective counter-offensive.

I watched this week as we continue the debate on what to do about our increasing energy problems. Republicans claim they submit bill after bill for “comprehensive” energy policies which Democrats continue to block. Is that true? Nope. Let’s look back a bit, and then examine what we now are learning.

Remember once upon a time there was a big flap about how big energy interests met with Cheney? It was a closed-door meeting. Try as we have, no one has yet learned who was there and what was said and decided. We do know that oil interests wanted to drill in Anwar. We know they were against environmental claims that promoted “alternative” energy technology. When the public refused to be pushed into drilling in Alaska, what happened?

The administration dug in its heels; it did nothing. It ignored and suppressed environmental concerns and pushed no meaningful funding for other alternative sourcing. Saddam Hussein  had thrown out four major American oil companies from Iraq. The stage was set.

A war is manufactured in Iraq to get rid of Hussein. Today the big 4 US oil companies have magically won the contracts to get back into Iraqi oil.

A refusal by oil companies in this country to drill on millions of acres they do have access, and a refusal to put any real money into alternative sources of energy has helped to drive up prices to astronomical levels. Last year, I believe Exxon-Mobil garnered profits in excess of 40 BILLION dollars. Guess what? Thirty-two BILLIONS of it went not to drilling, exploring or development, but they used it to buy back their own stock!

Now, given the serious concerns of the consumer, with prices going through the roof what have we now? Increased Republican calls for drilling in Anwar and off all our coastlines. Hoping no doubt that the public in its fear with finally go along with oil company demands. This is what they call “comprehensive” new energy policies.

Does it take a genius to figure out what might have occurred at that secret meeting between Cheney and the Oil companies? It seems that every single thing they wanted, they have got or are on the way to getting. That is what shading the truth, (read out right lying) gets you folks. And of course all done for your benefit. Bullshit as they say.

I can go on. Pro-lifers argue that abstinence is moral. It is God’s way. It is the only acceptable manner in which to advise our children. They argue that Roe v. Wade must be overturned because their sensibilities are offended. Perhaps all of our sensibilities need to be offended. That is not my argument. I don’t like, plain and simple, telling another woman what she may do regarding her own body. I am loathe to do so. But I no doubt can make exceptions. What to do with the pregnant woman who does not want to abort, but continues to use drugs during her pregnancy, making for serious health problems for the infant? That’s a corker isn’t it? I can’t answer that one either, given my loathing for interference in another’s body choices.

But a truth they avoid, and it is a truth, is that when it comes to abstinence vs. good sex education and access to artificial birth control  (ABC as known by Catholics), the truth is simply that the later is productive of far fewer unwanted teen pregnancies and fewer abortions. This is what promotes most effectively the policies of fewer abortions so demanded by the religious right. That it conflicts with Catholic dogma about ABC is an inconvenient truth.

Let me bring it closer to home. You have moral precepts that you have received from your Church, and true or not, believe they therefore come from God.  Do you have the right? duty? to tap your neighbor on the shoulder and advise them of their “sinfulness.” Do you have the right and duty to advise your pastor that some are “living in sin” or otherwise not following the tenets of the faith? How far is too far? What is truth here?

I have a lot of questions like this. I’m not smart enough or wise enough to have many answers. I tend to land on the side of keeping my mouth shut about how others conduct their lives when I don’t know the answer, especially if I’m not sure it’s a universal truth as opposed to a more personal morality, where ever garnered from. Unless someone is breaking an actual law, I pretty much figure it’s not my business. Some disagree. Admonish the sinner is getting a lot of press these days among a vocal minority. I’d be interested in what others think. It’s just what I’ve been thinking about today.