We both have truths. Aren’t mine the same as yours?
— From “Jesus Christ Superstar”
It was in Jasper, Ala., during the post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas semi-holiday period that I was given an eye-opening dose of reality, courtesy of 3-year-old Sam Fletcher.
Sam’s mom, Jessica, lamented that the tyke needed a haircut but that he’d refused to allow her to get close to his head with a pair of scissors. Thinking that the Batman-loving young gunslinger would easily bend to the will of his “Poppy,” I offered my best watch-this pose and said, “Hey, Sammy, would you let Tammy cut your hair?”
He looked at me — and at Tammy, my wife — for a beat, and I offered what I thought would be the clincher: “She cuts Poppy’s hair.”
Sam did not stop playing with his new train set for even a second before responding.
“No,” he said with a finality that was undeniable.
“Why not?” I asked, my grandfatherly pride wounded.
“Because she’s not a barber,” Sam replied, simply.
No debate needed; none necessary. Just BAM! Take that bit of 3-year-old logic and deal with it.
In the week since returning from my trip to Jasper, as I’ve carried out the journalistic duties of this position, I’ve thought frequently of Sam Fletcher’s pre-school truthism. And I’ve wondered at what point we who call ourselves grown-ups lose that childlike ability to speak what’s in our hearts and on our minds without irony, sarcasm or artifice.
In the last five days alone I’ve held conversations with politicians who’ve stretched the truth so far you’d no longer recognize the word; I’ve questioned people whose dancing skills while avoiding giving a direct answer to a direct question rival anything Cheryl Burke does on “Dancing With the Stars.”
And I’ve interviewed people who’ve gone out of their way to assure me that the reason they’d leaked damning information “they’d heard” about a business rival had nothing at all to do with the fact that they were competitors, when all the time they were talking it was painfully obvious that their words had absolutely everything to do with the fact that they were hoping to generate a little bad press at their rivals’ expense. (In one case, incidentally, a simple two-minute fact check proved the malicious claims that slipped out had not one iota of fact attached.)
Taking stock of all the untruths, half-truths, truth-stretching, innuendo, rumors, misleading information and just plain old bald-faced lies that have become something of an acceptable part of the current landscape, I started wondering when we as people get it into our heads that the way to go is to avoid any truth that might be the least bit unpleasant. Is it when we learn, as toddlers, that blaming bad things on the family pet — even things that family pets don’t have the capacity for, like say, flushing dad’s wallet down the toilet — sometimes gets us out of a spanking (or timeout in more enlightened families)?
Is it when we manage to convince our trusting first girlfriend that we got that strange mark on our neck when our mom’s wildly erratic vacuum cleaner leapt out of our hands and attached itself to our person and had nothing at all to do with the fact that we give that Swedish exchange student a ride home from school after detention?
Is it when we figure that, despite their ominous warnings, the IRS rarely audits folks who make as little money as we do, so why not throw in just a few “extra” exemptions on our returns each year to keep a little more of the fruits of our labor than we’re not supposed to get?
Or is it when we find out we can just make BS up, call it a platform for change and lie our way into a political office, where the real money is?
Jesus left word a long time ago that “the truth shall set you free.” But who cares about freedom when there’s ill-gotten gain available for the taking ... just so long as we’re able to conjure up a convincing enough lie.
Besides ... nowadays, any clown with a pair of scissors calls himself a barber.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.