Post-truth America

“I was amazed. I’m standing next to a guy who has the most blatantly dishonest answers I can remember in any presidential race in my lifetime… I don’t know how you can debate someone with civility if they’re prepared to say things that are factually false.”

—Newt Gingrich
My last essay was an attempt to tease out the strands of hope out of a world that on the face of it seems to descend into mere anarchy with each passing day. I still believe in that hope, all these days later, and that things will work out, if only because the alternatives are so dire.

But for whatever reason, I'm in a seething rage. Maybe it was this quote:
“(Obama’s) said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume, you know, that he is,” Graham said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, adding that he doesn’t know whether Obama has accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. Then Graham repeated his claim that Obama’s father was a Muslim and therefore the “Muslim world sees (Obama) as a son of Islam.”
Or maybe this:
"Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion," Romney said.
Or how about this from our very own latter day Howdy Doody?
Rick Santorum was asked whether, in recent remarks, he’s been deliberately suggesting that President Obama “looks down on disabled people.” Santorum replied: “Well, the president supported partial-birth abortion, and partial-birth abortion is a procedure used almost exclusively to kill children late in pregnancy when they've been found out to be disabled.” 
That’s odd. Because for nine years, while he was promoting the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in the U.S. Senate, Santorum said exactly the opposite. He said partial-birth abortion was used almost exclusively to kill children who weren’t disabled. And he said anyone who implied otherwise was a liar. [Emphasis mine.]
The Franklin Graham quote I found on Talking Points Memo. The Mitt Romney quote was featured prominently in a Yahoo News article. Rick Santorum's bromide was easy to find: just Google "Rick Santorum lies". Literally, five minutes of research. If I cared to I could find a dozen more with a few more minutes' work; but I think the above examples are sufficient.

There's a shamelessness running rampant in this country, aided and abetted by the sorry excuses that call themselves "the media". One can argue that the halcyon days when the media served as truth-tellers in the face of rampant obfuscation by politicians of both parties never really existed. Richard Nixon began his rise by running a no-holds-barred campaign against Helen Gahagan Doughlas for Senate. The 50's and the 60's were filled with Red-baiting and dirty politics and then the ultimate political tool—assassination. No, America has never been "innocent".

But, if for no other reason than "the good of the children", there was a consensus that lying was bad, and ought to be avoided. It was honored more in the breach than the observance, but it was a meme that floated about. No longer. Lying is not only acceptable, it seems to be a requirement for winning Republican nominations to everything from President down to water commissioner. (Make sure there's no fluoridation in the water supply!) Not to shed crocodile tears for Newt Gingrich, as he as much as anyone is responsible for the modern pathology that operates under the nickname of the Grand Old Party, but how can an average, not-very-clued-in voter get any sense of who any of these Republican candidates are when they do nothing but lie, to varying degrees and with increasing levels of impunity?

These are the men running for the right to negotiate with the Russians and Chinese, with friends and foes, and are supposed to have the full faith and credit of the United States behind them. If, heaven forbid, one of them were to win the White House, why would any adversary or ally, upon looking on what a President Romney or a President Santorum did to win the election, have any belief in anything he said? It's no accident that a man who conducted himself with honor and rectitude during the 2008 campaign was able to improve almost immediately our standing in the world. Either Romney or Santorum would have the exact opposite effect.

I take some comfort in the fact that this primary campaign—as well as the GOP over-reach ever since the 2010 elections—are serving to ring the death knell of this iteration of the conservative movement. But, as an American, born and raised here from immigrant parents, still proud of the country in spite of its many faults, it incenses me to no end that we're having to be dragged through this sorry spectacle. With every lie, with every creation of a "fact" to fit ideology, the Republicans are sealing their fates with the majority of Americans who value truth over falsehood. But in doing so they are pulling the country down, miring it in the muck, taking serious business and debasing it for purely personal profit. It's something that as Americans we should look at with great sadness—and, yes, a seething, righteous anger. As a country, as human beings, we deserve to be served better.