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Truth telling as an act of resistance


If, as the early 20th century California politician Hiram Johnson once noted[1], truth is the first casualty in war, then the first step in working for peace must surely be telling the truth, especially at the beginning when war is just a distant rumble and a whispered rumor, for that is the season when the powers of institutionalized violence start sniping at Truth like a kid with a bb gun, shooting empty Dr. Pepper cans off a fence at ten paces.

Take, for example, Washington-based claims that the world’s media either have ignored or under-reported multiple terrorist attacks around the world, and that, once upon a time, a couple of Iraqi refugees perpetrated a massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky. These lies can seem like the incompetent bumbling of an inexperienced West Wing staff (and maybe they are) but I can’t shake the worrying notion that they are, instead, crafted cynically to lay the ground work for the justification of war.[2]

I am, of course, opposed to the next war, wherever and against whomever that war may be waged, but because I still lack the details surrounding America’s next ill-advised military adventure, I cannot take to the streets or to the pulpit to denounce the war. What I can do, however—indeed what we all must do—is make sure truth does not die on our watch.

We must speak truth. We must be honest in what we say and in what we report others to have said. We must value empirical data when they are available, and when we are speaking of matters such as beauty and love, whose truth is subjective, we must speak in ways that reflect the truth that resides in our souls.

This is important when we’re talking of matters political, but it also is essential when we talk to one another in personal ways, when we share words of affection, and kindness, when we offer personal support, and friendly companionship.

The preservation of truth may not prevent the next war, but it will prepare us for the work of bearing witness to peace, for the first step of making peace is saying what is true. Therefore, truth telling is an important act of resistance, to which we all are called.

God’s Peace,                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ben

[1] Because I want to avoid starting this Contact piece by making a dubious claim in a sentence calling for truth-telling, I should point out that no one is really sure who was first to point out that truth is the first casualty of war. It may have been Hiram Johnson, or it may have been Philip Snowden or Samuel Johnson or some other astute yet anonymous soul.

[2] This is, I will admit, somewhat paranoid, but I’m still waiting for a good reason not to believe my worst fears won’t be realized during the tenure of our current president.