Get Real: truth always trumps an easy lie


Adam Schoelz

art by Anna Sheals
Now I’m well aware that for many people the profession of journalist — writer, television anchor, what have you — is often perceived to be that of a professional cynic.
To work off of a stranger’s words is to be skeptical, and most of the time the reporter falls into the step of not believing people because people never say what they mean, especially in the context of news events that could damage a reputation, that most critical of public measurements.
This is a problem endemic in our society. For instance, here at The Rock, we’d love to run wonderful little exposés on drug dealers, violent crime and STDs, but who will talk?
And since The Rock frowns upon using anonymous sources, who will talk and leave their name in the open, exposing their reputation to critical attack from all sides?
The answer, unfortunately often, is nobody. Or they will talk, then completely turn upon realizing that, when they talked to a newspaper reporter, their words MIGHT end up in a newspaper. It’s always a question of reputation, that fickle beast that haunts everyone’s steps.
Reputation — or trying to please others to preserve oneself — constantly takes the stage from truth, which is unceremoniously tossed to the side. It’s natural to avoid being embarrassed; the only problem is when avoiding embarrassment occurs in a self-perpetuating cycle and takes precedence over actually doing anything. People avoid saying what they mean, doing what is necessary, for the sake of personal comfort. Basically, this is lying. Complicatedly, it will lead to the collapse of society as we know it. I know this because I have seen first-hand what happens when one follows this road too far.
It was a day in early September, when the leaves were yellow and crisp but the wind had not yet turned bitter and hateful toward all things good. I was a wee lad in second grade, enjoying the state of selfishness that all small children share, when I noticed that I had lost a backpack borrowed from my parents. Said backpack contained several papers vital to important family business and I had promised quite fervently I would not lose it.
My primary response, naturally, was panic.
My second response was finding someone to blame. You see, I feel I can examine this phenomenon, this obsession with ‘rep’, because I took it to the extreme — well, as extreme as a second grader can go. I framed someone for theft in the name of protecting my own hide.
The day turned bitter cold. Upon my second grade countenance lay an expression of tenfold anger, with a hint of fear. My finger rose, pointing, accusatory. A student had taken my backpack, I said. A thief went to that school. My anger and my accusation were, of course, lies. But lying, it seemed to me, was far more prudent than accepting the truth. Admitting my mistake was out of the question. My ‘rep’ with my parents, with my pupils — it depended on this devilish gambit.
Of course I deservedly failed. Whisked up to school in an instant to collect the missing item, my story fell apart rather quickly. The ‘thief’ himself had waited to give me back my backpack, as if my lie weren’t already vile enough. Obviously, this painted me bright red as a liar, and the whole thing fell apart. Dehorned and dishonored, I returned home, my rep significantly damaged.
Though this was as a minor incident, it displays the dangers of promoting what others think of you above telling the simple and honest truth. Though the stakes were still small in this case — a missing backpack — been replicated in local politics? On the national stage? If I were willing to blatantly lie to protect myself in an incredibly minor matter, what happens when politicians make the same sort of mistake?
The answer, of course, is nothing good, which is frightening because our entire political sphere is absorbed in the business of self-protection. Every scandal, every fight — it’s all in the name of protecting a person, or a person’s money. Instead of working together to find the lost backpack, we’re killing each other over the blame. As it turns out, getting my rep destroyed was the best thing for me. Traumatic experiences in childhood carry a lot of weight, and even today I still just don’t lie. As self-righteous as that sounds, it’s true — lying has been kind of ruined for me.
Being real may sound like a phrase from a ‘90s sitcom, but it is a rule to live by. Telling the truth before the lies pile up is an easy way to avoid trouble — I learned that in second grade. Every action will have an effect. Really, rather than ending up strangled by lies and drama, wouldn’t it be easier to live without them?
By Adam Schoelz