If life were the fantasy many seem to think it is, this is how it would be. There would be swirling clouds or low-lying fog with a crash of thunder in the distance. There would be a whirl of black fabric, a faint whisper of breeze on your cheek, and a witch would lay a little spell on someone. The poor girl’s eyes would lose focus as she fell into the languor of the new reality the witch had created for her; she would sink to the ground, and the woodland creatures would grieve.
Perhaps it is simply a 100-year sleep, a hundred years of reality removed from all consciousness. Or perhaps it is not our heroine but our hero, a handsome prince turned into a frog or a Beast, to forever be seen as something he is not, to be the living embodiment of a lie.
Every civilization and culture has stories about the power of The Lie. Sometimes they are simple moral tales like The Emperor’s New Clothes. Sometimes they are much more serious like the one involving the apple and the serpent. When people fall for The Lie it never works out well for them, does it?
In our digital age it has become increasingly simple to perpetrate The Lie. Tell it big; tell it often; never back down, and share the hell out of it. In no time at all, The Lie becomes the truth for so many people that it’s impossible to dispel it. That’s the power of The Lie. It poses as truth. You can’t see the prince for the Beast. Unless, of course, you are a very special person like Beauty, you run in fear.
In our fairytales The Lie is almost always exposed in the end. The Beast becomes a prince again. The little boy says what everyone is thinking as the naked Emperor marches past. Snow White gets that kiss.
In real life it doesn’t quite work that way.
In real life The Lie is actually not one lie. It’s a whole universe of lies, told in sequence, but absorbed into the swirling grey cloud that hides reality and becomes a truth for those under its pall. It is a shadowy alternate reality where eyes are clouded over like those of an old woman with cataracts.
It begins simply enough. Someone writes an email to someone else during a campaign wondering if Barak Obama was really born in America. And then someone says out loud that he wasn’t born here, he was born in Kenya, and everyone should know that because he’s black and he’s a Muslim. And it’s a lie. It’s actually two lies. But now it’s out there and it is repeated. It joins the grey mist and becomes a part of The Lie. It shrouds the eyes of those who succumb.
Ironically, when Barack Obama defends himself and denies the lie being told, he becomes the liar. Because when The Lie becomes the truth, the truth cannot be seen. And then that lie is absorbed into the mist. Obama is a liar. A member of congress shouted that out during a State of the Union speech. How much more proof could you want?
If you feed The Lie it grows. People like Newt Gingrich spoke of Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial” mentality. Trump demanded a birth certificate and then dismissed it when it was produced. During the 2012 election run-up, Fox News called Obama a liar over and over. Obama, they claimed, lied about his health care plan. He lied about the health care costs. He lied about everything.
The spell moves outward on the little feet of feline familiars. The thunder rolls from cloud to cloud in the distance. The mist spreads. How can anyone possibly respect a president who is not even eligible to be a president and then lies to the people? The Lie absorbs more reality, becomes its own truth, and everyone under its influence is now free to say whatever they want about the President of the United States because he is really not the President of the United States, he is a poser: a Kenyan, Muslim, lying poser and he deserves no respect. That’s how a member of congress can get away with calling the President of the United States a liar during a State of the Union address.
Each little lie adds to the energy of the greater spell. Obama has acted like a dictator, wielding executive orders like no other president before him. A lie. Obama has issued fewer executive orders than either George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, but utter the lie and, like any incantation, the spell grows with each repetition.
Obama is never in the White House. He’s always on vacation. A lie. Obama is on track to have taken fewer vacation days than George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan combined. But the mist surrounding The Lie is an opiate and those under its influence will never see this little lie added to the cauldron bubbling away in plain sight.
And never once in any of this has it been necessary to actually say that Obama is a black man who has risen to a station above those who think he should never have been able to rise that far. And so has his “uppity” wife, Moochelle. There is no respect due. He cannot be a president. She cannot be a first lady. And the day these pretenders moved into the White House was the day America lost its greatness. And now we need to Make America Great Again. America is no longer great says The Lie.
The Lie is much larger than one man, of course. As an alternative to reality it has tendrils everywhere and as many contributors as there are broomsticks on a stormy October night.
The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion “citizens group,” released videos they took in secret which they claim prove that Planned Parenthood is selling aborted fetal tissue for a profit. But that’s a lie.  The unedited version of those tapes clearly shows that it’s a lie. But toss those tapes into the cauldron and those already under the spell of The Lie are ready to shut down our government to defund Planned Parenthood because of this “travesty.” And because of the publicity and outrageousness of the accusations, others are brought under the curse as well.
One lie feeds off another.
Carly Fiorina stood on the debate stage as a Republican candidate for President of the United States and said, “With regards to Planned Parenthood… anyone who has watched this videotape… I dare Hillary Clinton; I dare Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’ “And it’s a LIE. There is no such scene in those tapes. Even The Center for Medical Progress admits there is no such scene in those tapes.
Why would a presidential candidate get up and in a well-rehearsed, powerfully delivered response at a nationally televised debate simply LIE to the American people? Because she can. Because those under the spell already have been primed to believe her. Because no one will actually say: this, this one thing you just did, disqualifies you from being a candidate for the presidency.
She LIED. She lied to the American people on a nationally televised event and her poll numbers went up. The consequences of her lie are that she is now seen as a better presidential candidate than before she lied. Oh, but she spoke so forcefully, and she seemed so strong! She LIED.
Another bit for the cauldron, eye of Newt, toe of Fiorina. Double, double toil and very deep trouble.
Chris Christie maintained again at the debate that he was named U.S. attorney the day before 9/11. A LIE.
Trump maintained that vaccinations cause autism. A LIE.
Jeb Bush told us that “at least” his brother kept us safe. A LIE – unless you ignore 9/11, the single biggest loss of American life in an attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. Ask the parents of the nearly 4500 Americans who died in Iraq how safe America was for their children under George W Bush.
Manipulating truth is common practice in the political arena; it’s not new. Misrepresenting facts, exaggeration, and misdirection – these have been in a part of the campaign arsenal for a long time. Democrats lie as well as Republicans. The Lie is not the same. You can refute A LIE. Where do you even begin to remove the caul drawn across the face of so many Americans that is The Lie?
There is no magic kiss that can reach those numbers. There aren’t enough magic tears for that multitude. Not even Gandolf the White with all the magic of Rivendell behind him could lift this curse.
An entire wing of a major political party has been lost to an ensorcellment of fear: fear of people not like them; fear of religions not like theirs; fear of getting old; fear of losing control; fear that in the future, their lives will not be like their pasts. Like trolls caught in the light of day, they are frozen in time, unreachable, their howls echoing through the forest long after their vocal chords turned to stone. There is no help for them any longer. These are lost souls.
The best we can do is to keep those who have not yet succumbed from drinking the deadly brew, inhaling the opiates of fear. Perhaps we can conjure a deadly thicket of thorny vines around the Lie to keep the innocents away.
More likely, the best we can do is root out the LIES that feed the larger malady as they spring up. We cannot tolerate deliberate lies in our political campaigns. Every candidate must be held accountable. Republican or Democrat. No good comes to our nation when we allow those who would lead us to prove that they are worthy by lying to us. These people must be rooted out, branded for what they are, and cast aside. If the national media cannot do that because they have fallen under the same spell, then those who can still tell the truth must do it for them.
At the end of the day, we don’t get to join the elves and old wizards on gossamer ships sailing to the west and away from the land of men. We are the land of men. We make our own magic. We can do so for good or ill. We can create a society that values truth and what is best in each other or we can follow the Lie.
Your Humble Servant,
Roger A. Shipley, The Willowbrook Curmudgeon