Monday

December 11th, 2017

Insight

Liars' club

Georgie Anne Geyer

By Georgie Anne Geyer

Published August 29, 2016

Newspaper commentators are not known for writing about lying. Such reproaches are up to our beloved mothers, who somehow never ... ever ... let go of warning us about the horrors of not being truthful, or up to our pastors, priests, rabbis, imams or otherwise wise mentors.

Sometimes the warnings would be taken up by smart-alecks, with something like, "It's always better to tell the truth, because lying puts such a drain on your memory." But usually, the remonstration was more in line with the Bible's sober warning to "bear not false witness."

So it seemed a little strange and even off-beat that, in this last week the papers have been full of stories about people being punished for lying that would have done my mother's heart good.

One is forced to wonder: Could this actually be one of those "teachable moments" the Obama folks often refer to -- one of those events that can be employed to change human behavior?

First on the block we have none other than the talented Ryan Lochte, who has won no fewer than 12 Olympic medals, which puts him second among American swimmers to the super-legendary Michael Phelps, and who would seem to have not a care in the world.

When Lochte went to the Rio 2016 Games this summer, he was a hero of advertising, from the swimmer's Speedo to the fashionista's Ralph Lauren. Muito dinheiro, amigos! He had been the subject of a 2013 reality TV series called "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" The world lay at his feet, which ploughed the water everywhere like magic fins.

And then, the supposedly blessed Ryan Lochte LIED.

Remember, please, that he didn't have to lie. That night, he and three of his comrades-in-sport went to a big, joyful, champagne-soaked French party in Rio and drank too much. OK, not nice, but also usually not fatal.

But Lochte & Co., in that "otherworld" of drink and drunken drama, about 6 a.m. stopped at a simple gas station to use the men's room. There they, so to speak, pissed off the armed guards by tearing apart the men's room.

His pals said he was in an "altered" state. Still, by any means, a lesser "crime" than most.

But then, our very own Ryan LIED.

Did he actually decide to, or did it just come out? We don't know yet. But we do know that his first story -- that he and his compadres were robbed by gun-toting men wearing police uniforms, with one putting a gun to Lochte's Olympian head -- soon turned out to be false, as many of these tales so often do.

Indeed, the tall tale also pissed off, so to speak, the Brazilian authorities, who were already angered by accusations all over the world of Brazilian criminality. The second story was rather quickly dug out by the supposedly inefficient Rio police, and all hell broke loose.

At the same time, in mid-August, I happened to be visiting my hometown of Chicago, and, lordy Lord, it was announced by Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson that seven officers should be fired for their response to their colleague's fatal shooting of a young African-American man, Laquan McDonald, in 2014.

It now turns out that the city fathers, its police department and its well-known Mayor Rahm Emanuel had stood back two years ago, after Officer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 shots at the 17-year-old McDonald, killing him. The officer at the time claimed that the boy had moved menacingly toward him with a knife, a story contradicted by the video of the shooting.

The police officer is now charged with murder and is awaiting trial, but until now, the other officers had supported his original story and, as the Chicago Tribune worded it last week:

"To the (police) department's critics, the significance of the video of Mr. McDonald's shooting was not just in showing how wanton and unnecessary his killing had been, but in starkly demonstrating how blatantly and casually police officers had lied about the circumstances of another officer shooting a man."

There's that word again: This time, the police officers LIED.

Now, there is much more to say about both the Rio and the Chicago stories, but essentially both involve lying while trying to cover up a malfeasance. And so one has to ask, what if they had told the truth?

In the Lochte case, if he had admitted to being in an "altered" state and apologized, it would have been over in half a day -- and forgotten. Instead, he is deeply humiliated, his swimming glory days are over, and his financial glory days are REALLY over, as his sponsors drop off, each one faster than the other. Americans in Rio were so embarrassed, they left notes of apology at the Rio airport for the Brazilians.

In Chicago, one man is dead and another is being tried for murder, while seven police officers who could have told the truth, or even stopped the killing, are facing dismissal. The infamous Chicago "code of silence," both among the police (about each other) and among black Chicagoans (about neighborhood gang killings), is ironically self-destructive.

Our mothers tended to tell us that lying was wrong because it was morally wrong. It is! But on a larger level, lying is not only wrong, but it is dumb. Good mamas, please tell that to your kids, too!

Previously:
11/04/15: Europeans' good intentions are overwhelmed by immigration. Will America?
10/01/15: The 'I' word
09/09/15: Generosity has its downside
07/15/15: Thank you, Donald Trump
07/01/15: Immigrant crisis tests Europe's Union
05/27/15: Why Iraq will continue to fall --- no matter what the West does
05/06/15: For Europe, generosity to turn into nightmare?
04/29/15: Both sides must work to end our season of killing
04/01/15: Our next president should be a homebody
03/04/15: Japan's sun poised to rise on world stage
01/21/15: Rumors of a new Cold War have real roots in history
01/21/15: It's time to be practical about multiculturalism
01/07/15: Tension mounts against Muslim immigration in the West

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Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years.

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