I treasure memories of my dad, Watters Farnum, as a plain-spoken, somewhat uneducated cowboy who spoke grammatically incorrect English and Spanish. He was, and will forever remain my hero. Although basically kind, Daddy had no patience for pretense or “bull”. It turns out that telling the truth became one of the most important lessons he gave to me.
Daddy wanted me to take square dancing lessons. I don’t recall having strong feelings about these lessons. However, one Saturday, I decided to skip. When Daddy asked about the lesson, I lied. In no time at all, my story unraveled. “Barbie, just tell the truth. It’s so simple. Once you say something untrue, you have to build on the story to cover your tracks.” OK. I got it. Not that I always stay on track but at least I know when I start to slide down that slippery slope.
Today’s search for a simple truth does not feel so simple. Politically speaking, we seem to be in a different reality zone when it comes to stating actual facts. Personally, I feel assaulted by statements that can easily be proven untrue; flooded with conflicting stories. Apparently, if a lie gets repeated enough times, many people accept the words as the truth. Does this not seem frightening?
And so, in honor of my dad who kept life simply by telling it as he saw it, I believe words matter.
Telling the truth remains as important as the day when I lied about skipping square dancing. From myself, I demand honesty. From my leaders, I must also insist on unvarnished truth. As Daddy advised, once a lie starts, it requires both repetition and backups. I fear for a nation permeated with lies, partial truths, and conflicting accounts. Can we insist on anything less than unvarnished honesty from ourselves or from our leaders? I believe we relinquish truth at our peril.