Sometimes, truth is besides the point. In today’s politics, its relevancy is certainly diminished. Its purpose is abandoned, standing as empty and eerie as the giant hollow factory shells of Detroit. We are taught to think of truth as solid and firm, but its integrity sways like the vine bridges built deep in rain forest interiors hidden from view. Truth is adaptable and timeless, which makes it easy to overrun. But in the heat of the moment, the property of truth Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. cited is often forgotten: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
Its role in this season’s Presidential campaigns is over- and underrated, as one is about fear, the other about feel good. It is true that systems in conflict or competition create a set of their own norms intended to gain advantage and defeat the other, and this determines their options and handicaps their outcomes. Yet one campaign has based its entire strategy on betting against truth’s rise, believing truth’s adaptivity can be twisted and crushed by fear. The truth of truth is that truth expands; it is indispensable, not disposable.
Yet the power of truth is rare as a social or political force; it has always been tied to a sense of shame, a feeling of inner pain, a self-imposed humility, an emptiness and brokenness that rained on a soul telling a lie. Truth, celebrated as a virtue, carried with it a sense of embarrassment that made it hard to look people in the eye. Despair–agony–waited on those who bent or violated its moral faith. All day demons reigned in the lost hearts that told lies, a separation that left these hearts disturbed in out-of-body drift. Truth is the comfort of wholeness. Truth is foremost an inner quality, a force that builds a fabric of trust.
Akin and the ensuing political arguments badly miss this point. His one sentence/word/day violated a larger, higher trust. One New York Times commenter observed:
“I listened carefully to his “apology” and heard not a syllable of contrition, nor admission of responsibility for anything except a whining poor choice of words.”
A comment from the website, TalkLeft, explained:
“It wasn’t that your [Akin’s] rhetoric was wrong, but that your underlying beliefs that seem to be based at least in part on junk science, and your efforts to impose both your beliefs and your judgment on all women, are what’s wrong.
“I haven’t looked into your record on other issues that affect women and children, but if you aren’t the fierce advocate for health programs, mother and child nutrition programs, housing, education and jobs, that someone who says he cherishes life should be, then I have to conclude that you don’t cherish life as much as you cherish control.”
Even Karl Rove said Akin’s statement was, “So bad, so deplorable, so out-of-touch that there’s no way to recover.” During his political career, Todd Akin campaigned on and legislated sexual politics, slashing women’s rights and the integrity of their persons and bodies under cover of an intolerant faith. Akin and Paul Ryan were lockstep partners on abortion, sharing exactly the same view as the GOP party platform. They were also lockstep sponsors of a House bill to bestow legal personhood on a fertilized egg, providing a single cell with all of the rights and protections of the US Constitution.
Now, to save his career, he tramples on truth and faith. To those who use faith wrongly (and lie!), a day of reckoning and rebuke comes, as his did, swiftly and without warning. Still, he is blind, his tongue speaks with swift deceit and swagger in its contempt. His earnest lack of shame (fund raising even before he issued his defense!) should not be taken as strength. His responsibility should not be ignored even as others are tied–legitimately–to his views. His position has already being repeated by Long Island’s Steve King, and, by proxy, by the House members who supported his bill to impose his views. Let him rush forward. But without redemption. Five senators from Missouri called for him to withdraw.
The man who screams “I can win,” has already lost.
Mercy should never endorse the sin.