It’s amazing how lies persist. It’s mind-boggling how widely they are believed. It’s baffling how far and frequently lies are distributed. Lies kill the usefulness and benefits of truth, destroy its purpose. Lies take a large, tragic toll. Yet on they roll—spread and framed; applauded by people without shame. It’s astonishing how many people openly embrace their damage.
Many of the great temples and statues of Asia, marvels of human ingenuity and indefatigability, an awe-inspiring celebration of great common works, were pulled down in our times and destroyed by lies. Stone faces carved by hands thousands of years ago were smashed. Their rubble litters the courtyards that were once grand entrances of power or prayer. In Iraq, antiquities were looted. In Egypt, the artifacts of a vaunted history were stolen.
But lies don’t smash or loot—yes, they do! They guide the hands that do. They encourage and justify the actions. They inflame the necessary emotions.
Now lies have come home to kill.
An old man who spent 20 years in military service sworn to protect America has murdered three of the country’s own innocents—a 14-year-old child and his 69-year-old grandfather, a 53-year-old woman visiting her mother—and then yelled a repugnant salute of one of history’s leaders of genocide from the police car where he sat handcuffed. He pulled the trigger, but the murders were committed by lies.
Old biases live in death. In those who are without the moral intelligence to see that hate is blind and absurd, an evil of blame not righteousness. To preserve itself, the lie has to find a way to cross over and become an act. That act is a bright mirror of destruction on a global and personal scale. It might be a political act, a territory grab, or legislation. But it might be the lie repeated as a bullet. Truth rarely kills. Virtually every gun death is attached to a lie; whether it be domestic or social or political, the trigger pull is caused by false beliefs.
Here’s why. What sets any oppressed group apart is not their struggle, but a relentless humanity; not their victory or punishment or insistence on accountability, but their restoration of the rich quality of values and acts the oppressor destroyed. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela are among the most prominent of world leaders who understood that truth expands opportunity and offers to all what it seeks for those denied justice.
As the oppressed struggle, they are called by grace to subdue the self-interest of judgment by offering to others what they would reclaim.
A moral society expands its common ground, learns from its differences, protects and draws from its gifts. A moral society is centered in truth. Morality is the rudder on the social ship. With no moral vision, communities spin in circles without advance.
A society or community with a strong moral intelligence can survive political attacks. That’s one reason why faith is important. Witness the strength of the mother and daughter who lost a father and son in the same instant to the thin strand of a lie which mocked their needless death, yet whose grief is without condemnation.
Any positive moral vision must be all-inclusive. Morality is never punishment. It is fair treatment associated with sacrifice.
White supremacists, in their hate, act not as the oppressed, as they claim, but as oppressors. They see only the jumbled shards of images in the looking glass; their hate dominates their pain. Their self-interest cannot be shared with humanity. It is dangerous, divisive and deadly. It offers no path of unity, no common embrace.
But the lie is embraced. Hundreds—no, thousands have expressed satisfaction and praise for the killing of three innocent victims, one of whom was a 14-year-old kid. Thousands of Americans have taken to social media to offer approval.
This is another kind of death, also built on a lie. It the death of a society and its founding ideals. It is the loss of community and comfort, the killing of the oldest American social promise. Add keystrokes, the praise is another lie that spreads its terminal condition. The death of three innocents of differing American generations should no be tied to the killing of America’s founding ideals, but even with their deaths, the yoke of the lie is unbroken.
Truth, not hate, will break it.
Hate and a gun have no history of positive results—yet in America both are fed by those who are complacent yet deny their guilt. One hand, many minds. Unfathomable sorrow. A nation mourns. And mourns.