Written by Jamie O’Neill
“I don’t want to grow up; I’m a Toys R Us Kid.”
— Ad slogan for now defunct chain of toy stores.
“Give me a child until he is 7 and I’ll give you the man.”
— Jesuit maxim, after Aristotle.
“Give me the child until he is 8 and it will be a Bolshevik forever.”
— Vladimir Lenin
It was never my intention to become a crabby old man, but I can’t kid myself about that. I’m pissed off about one thing or another just about every day. The daily triggers for my crabbiness are mostly all about the lies I was told when I was young and the transparent lies I’m being told now that I no longer am.
I suppose some of those lies told to me when I was a kid were well-intended; if so, however, they came with lots of unintended consequences. When we were told that George Washington, POTUS1.0, never told a lie, that was meant to teach children that lying was a bad thing. If you wanted to be thought a good kid, like our first President, you’d do well to tell the truth when you fucked up.
And telling the truth is generally a good thing. But there’s a bit of an irony in the fact that the story they told to set an example for telling the goodness of truthfulness was based on a lie. Young George and his cherry tree fable set the template for the bigger lie that gave us to believe that presidents who came along after the first one wouldn’t lie to us, either. It also set a pattern for teaching kids that national heroes were superhuman. Smarter, more moral, and interested only in the common good. That, of course, is profoundly untrue. History, as taught to kids, is mostly lies. For most Americans, that’s just about the only history they ever get. It’s where political division gets installed in the electorate.
I’ve been lied to by presidents and other politicians all of my life, but never more outrageously, more frequently, or more infuriatingly than by the one who took office in 2017 and wouldn’t give it up when he lost in 2020. His proven lies have been tallied and they exceed 30,000 during his time in office. Those who bought his lies say that the reports of his prevarications are just “fake news.” End of story. Presidents don’t lie to us, you see, unless they’re “radical socialist Democrats.” Then, of course, they do nothing but lie.
But Trump has continued to add to his mounting tally of lies ever since he moved to Mar-a-Lago with a bunch of purloined documents. It could even be said that he lies his ass off and, like Pinocchio’s nose, his ass seems to grow bigger with every lie he tells. He lies to bolster earlier lies, repeating the lie that the woman he raped in a Bergdorf Goodman changing room was not his type despite the fact that he couldn’t tell the woman he didn’t know from his ex-wife, the woman for whom the place where he now lives is named. Maybe the problem is that when it comes to “his type,” the distinctions he makes between women are so nuanced that he can only distinguish one woman from another by fondling their genitals, aka “grabbing ’em by the pussy.”
Now we face the prospect of two competing lying assholes from Florida as top Republican contenders for the presidency. Jeb Bush, former “moderate” Governor of that state, has already expressed his preference for Ron DeSantis, a ball’s out tyrant and bully boy. So much for Republican moderation, I guess. Nothing at all immoderate about banning books, right? Or restricting the words people can say. Or creating an atmosphere of fear for teachers, doctors, or young women who are already frightened.
When it comes to lying, DeSantis has set about installing the practice of being way less than truthful as official state policy. He’s white-washing history in Florida, and he’s going to do the same for the whole damn country once he moves into the Oval Office. “Leftism” will be eliminated once he cleans up what American students will be allowed to know.
For the growing assemblage of liars who would be our next Republican POTUS, the path to a better America leads back to the past, the time when the darkies couldn’t vote and could be sold to the highest bidders at slave auctions. They were officially recognized as being 3/5th human. Wasn’t that something? Can you imagine the debates that took place as they came up with that percentage? Surely there were racists who held out for a zero percentage of being human for black folks until they were forced to compromise with the leftists and liberals on that 3/5th concoction.
But, in the grand tradition of fascism in all times and all places, DeSantis wants a country where the people just can’t handle the truth and therefore must be denied it. For their own damn good. He models lying himself, hoping to set an example for children and, ultimately, for all Americans. Or at least enough to keep fascists in office.
But isn’t it again ironic that to make his point, he chooses Walt Disney and the “magic kingdom” as his enemy. Disneyland and Disney World and Disney films are, of course, all based on lies, from Main Street to Frontierland, from Prince Charming to Song of the South. But occasionally even corporate purveyors of fantasy wander off the reservation and start trying to groom the kiddos to make ’em gay, robbing little boys of their manhood, preparing little girls to become angry feminist bitches, and black folks to expect something for nothing, and to get reparations for work their remote ancestors weren’t properly compensated for doing.
In order to move the needle away from that sort of “leftism,” DeSantis and his ilk would begin by reinstalling the lies that made white men heroes again, dying for freedom on the ramparts of the Alamo to make Texas safe for slavery (though we’ll keep the real motives for that fight on the down low, especially for kids).
DeSantis will also reconstruct American history back to the way it used to be seen when America was great, when Native Americans were plain ol’ Indians, injuns, or redskins, savages who fought against becoming civilized and were, like so many people of color, inclined to rape white women who were, quite obviously, more desirable than their own women.
As it turns out, at least for people like DeSantis, Mickey Mouse and his cartoon pals were all about trying to teach white boys and girls to hate their skin color. Or they sure as hell are now, anyway. Mickey and the suits at Disney are currently intent on grooming little kids to become patrons of drag shows, or to read subversive books. Or just to read books at all, for that matter. History, when taught properly in elementary and high school, tends to eliminate any further interest in history or truth forever after. That’s how it’s designed to work.
Now I know I could lessen my crabby tendencies if I just took a yoga class, or maybe practiced one or another of the many nostrums sold to keep us all chill and stress-free. Hell, pot is legal now in California, so I could deal with my anger issues by just staying high all the time. The dispensaries deliver, so I wouldn’t even have to leave home, risk arrest, or hide my stash.
But so much is going on that absolutely demands anger that maybe outrage is the order of the day. Even in “normal” times, our system functions as a perpetual money machine, funneling lies to us paid for by very rich people who want to keep us all dazed and confused. The lies serve their interests, keeping us divided and distracted. That plays to their advantage, of course, and it is, by definition, anti-democratic.
By beginning this piece with that fairy tale about young George Washington chopping down that cherry tree, I may have inadvertently trivialized the issue of ubiquitous lying in a democratic society, especially when it has become accepted as just how things work. Corruption has become so routine and lies so common that we all have become cynics, unable to imagine any possibility of curbs on even the most gratuitous deformations of the truth.
But when it comes to the blatant attempt to rewrite our history, we’re getting spun like eggs in a blender set to high. It is neither incidental nor coincidental that the people who want to expunge truth from our history are those who want to “Make America Great Again” and, lest we forget, they would return us to the narratives many of them had been taught, at home or in classrooms, or on their playgrounds where homophobia, sexism, and racism were served up daily. They were tales told by idiots, made stupid by gay jokes, dumb blonde jokes, and jokes about Mexicans, blacks, Asians, Jews, and an array of other groups targeted for nasty stereotyping. They weren’t funny, but you were required to laugh, peer pressure being what it is, and all.
How the hell could we expect people to believe political advertising or Fox Nooz if they hadn’t been groomed to accept lies from the time they were learning to tie their shoes. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have turned out to be so crabby if I’d never gone to college and learned so much stuff that the right wingers want us all to believe wasn’t true.
But if that’s so, why are Trump and/or DeSantis types so damn crabby themselves? They are proud “boys,” aren’t they? Just kids who didn’t want to grow up, and so didn’t.
So man up, you real Americans. Even Josh Hartley, that exemplar of what it means to be manly, is worried about you, and Tucker Carlson thinks you may need to toughen up your nuts with sun lamp treatments to keep you from eating green M&Ms. Obviously, this is serious shit.