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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!



“Liar, Liar, pants on fire!” Certainly you never shouted that as a child. You just heard other, naughty, less-well-brought-up children sing-songing it. Then, as a very cool adolescent, you never called anyone a “Lying sack of . . . “ Substitute “excrement” as a fill-in here, as I’m not sure that I am allowed to say the real word on the radio, but I’m betting that you’ve heard it and can mentally do the fill-in. Here probably is a good place to interject the results of a recent Stanford University study that found that users of, shall we say, colorful vocabulary may be more honest than those who are more circumspect in word-choice.

It’s probably fairly transparent as to why, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about chronological adults lying. Call it hubris, but I think that it’s so insulting that I barely can stand it. The hubris part comes from the idea held by those lying that those hearing are so dunderheaded that they will swallow the lie, as the saying goes, “hook, line and sinker.” And, I resent people thinking that I’m that stupid! Another well-used saying, “Do I have a Big “S” on my forehead for “stupid?” comes to mind here.

Did you ever watch the television program, “House?” I loved House in spite of all of his irritating quirks; the reason that I loved him was because one time, in a very off-handed manner, just as though it was a truth known by all, he commented, “Everybody lies.” Did that ever resonate with me! In the workplace, where money was often the root cause, people would tell me some outlandish, and insulting (Back to the big forehead “S.”) untruths. Poor Larry: I would go home, after a day of this, just fuming, hissing things such as, “They lie like they breathe.” In a case of art imitating life, House, made me understand what was going on. Apparently, lying is just reflexive in humankind. I wasn’t being singled out as the stupidest person to every walk upright. It wasn’t about me; it was about knee-jerk human reaction. Doesn’t say a lot for humanity, but there you go.

“Spin” and “alternative facts” are a couple of now frequently used euphemisms for what my sweet mother used to refer to as “storytelling.” And, as we have seen, this is a trick not for the less-than-mentally adroit. As Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Apparently when you spin you get dizzy and all sorts of transparent nonsense comes leaking out because you can’t remember what you said ten seconds ago. Lying appears to be a game not well-played by the unskilled, even though they may have had lots of practice. Must be like playing concert-violin; you can practice, but if you don’t have the gift, you just should do everyone a favor and retire from center-stage.

When a grandchild of mine was just a tiny lad, he and I were on an adventure; we went to breakfast together. When asked what he usually drank at breakfast, he gave me a beguilingly beautiful smile and said, “Lemonade.” Trying very hard not to burst into laughter, I gently suggested that I had difficulty imagining his parents allowing this and steered him into a less imaginative choice. Now, he was a tiny child with little or no power (excluding, unknown to him, the great power of being a grandchild), so his “storytelling” was understandable. Although my own inner-child admired his creativity, it was a moment for me to step up and guide him in direction of “do the right thing.” Doesn’t seem to work that way with adults though. Adults do have power, some of them quite considerable power, and with that power comes the responsibility to truth-tell. Although that that power is in varying degrees, the responsibility doesn’t shift. You have to own the truth. No asking, as those of you with any Biblical acquaintance know the question to be, “What is the truth?” Doing so ushers you into a land of fuzziness and shape-shifting. Don’t go there; be honest; cuss up a storm if you must.

For Michiana Chronicles, this is Jeanette Saddler-Taylor. No Lie!

Jeanette Saddler Taylor lives and writes in South Bend where she is retired, but is active in several community organizations.
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