Thursday, March 8, 2007

When is a lie not a lie?

We are living in a time when the line between right and wrong has not only been blurred it is being entirely redrawn. No one has actively advocated that lying is right but as importantly no one is forcefully condemning this behavior as wrong. It has created a culture of permissiveness in which, alarmingly, lying is becoming acceptable.

This is a tendency that is bi-partisan and cuts across the public and private sector. The Clintons were reported in the New York Times last week, to lie not just regularly but with such nonchalance as to be deeply troubling.

Equally disturbing is the news that despite the conviction of Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice, supporters are already speaking of securing a Presidential pardon from Bush the Younger. There is no shame in lying as a wrong-doing. Being pardoned is deemed sufficient to absolve a moral transgression.

In an earlier age, a basic moral code was a respected independent (non-religious) authority and was non negotiable. It today’s more relaxed, fluid age absolutes have given way to relativity in assessment and the moral character and fiber of this country is weaker for it.

Remember Oliver North lying under oath about his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal? Bush the Elder pardoned his lying along with five others in 1992. Remarkably, a three page justification was issued in support. Lying it seems, it permissible in the following situations:

*When the act is a motivated by a desire to be patriotic
*When there was no intent to seek profit either personally or professionally
*When an individual has an otherwise long and distinguished history in serving the country
*When the individual has already paid a price: in depleted savings, professional reputation or anguish caused to the family.

Beware: the sins of the father become those of the son. The times being what they are it wouldn’t be surprising if this President sends the same egregious signal to the youth of today. Lying is OK, it’s getting caught that’s wrong.

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