Philip Snowden, a WWI-era British politician, once wrote “‘Truth,’ it has been said, ‘is the first casualty of war.’” On the American political and cultural landscape, there is now a war raging that has left truth bleeding out. Driven by the experience of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, many Americans have been respectfully entering into a conversation about some very real and powerful issues, namely the way in which our Black brothers and sisters have been made to feel “less than” by aspects of American culture over the years.
In certain conversations, that dialogue is being advanced with authenticity, honesty and humility, but in too many places, the exchange has become a firestorm of half-truths, untruths and all out deception. Like all well-meaning, compassionate Americans attempting to learn and grow, I want a very simple thing: I want to be told the truth. A conversation with any other starting point than the truth is destined for a failure characterized by division, dissension and even violence. Unfortunately, far too many politicians and the people who make their money by causing such dissension have actively obscured the truth by starting conversations with limited or falsified versions of incidents and episodes that have lit the fuse on too many powder kegs of anger and violence.
Would downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin be a wasteland of smoldering ruins if the first reports of the officer-involved shooting had been accurate and thorough? Proving the old saying that “a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on,” we were fed a narrative of an innocent, harmless gentleman out on a peaceful drive with his children attempting to break up a fight before being inexplicably attacked then shot by police. Kenosha endured days of rioting and property destruction by out-of-town agitators before a more accurate portrayal emerged of police responding to an assault victim’s call to protect her from her repeat offender who proceeded to resist arrest, fight off the effects of two tasings then lunge for a knife before being subdued. We heard little about the abused woman in this scenario or the children potentially placed in harm’s way. Who spoke out against their victimization?
America is an ongoing experiment in democracy that is rooted in the inherent value and rights of the individual and the importance of due process. Our criminal justice system, with its presumption of innocence and the power of habeas corpus, is designed to ensure fairness in events of alleged criminality. There is a reason that witnesses in court must swear an oath “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” before testifying. The truth is our greatest protection from injustice and anarchy.
Sadly, because the first, incomplete and flawed narrative entered into the history books as truth, emotions are at an even higher level, downtown Kenosha is in ruins and an NFL quarterback has a criminal’s name taped to his helmet. As a result of the ongoing rhetoric, those who are committed to achieving true reform and social justice are being driven into one of two corners, wearied by a movement that has been hijacked by forces guided by hate and tunnel vision.
Another casualty of this war on the truth are the countless police officers across our country who go in harm’s way daily in defense of the communities they serve. Having responded to the vocational call to defend the defenseless, these officers now find themselves face to face with spitting protesters who insult them and pelt them with chunks of concrete as they defend property the rioters want to torch. At a time when the communities they protect and serve should be standing up to support them, cities across the country are working to reduce their funding, cut their resources and leave them exposed. As a result, police officers are retiring at a record rate and new officer candidates are getting harder to find.
I can tell you how this story ends, if these unjust trends continue. The inner cities that are currently protected by these officers will grow even more violent. The riots that these officers attempt to quell will grow more violent and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be further diminished by a rising tide of angry socialism. That simply cannot happen.
So, I call upon the American media to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Their wild conjecture only fans the flames of violence and stokes willful ignorance. I call upon politicians, regardless of party, to disavow the lies they repeat to the delight of their most zealous supporters. Let’s all commit to giving the truth time to “get its shoes on” so no more deception is spread in the service of flawed political aspirations and selfish goals. Otherwise the notion of bipartisan compromise on essential issues that affect us all will become a footnote in history books that will ultimately be burned on the pyre of radical socialism.
Let’s embrace the truth, no matter how hard it may be to speak or hear, because we know from scripture that the truth will set us free. In a nation that is rooted in Freedom, there can be no higher goal.