I catch myself lying once in a while.
I don’t mean those harmless little lies, the ones that you tell to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. I don’t mean stories about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, the fun little lies we tell our children.
I catch myself lying out of embarrassment.
For most of my life, I’ve been a tobacco user. My preferred mode of operation has typically been smokeless tobacco — chew, as we call it. It’s a disgusting habit, and I do not recommend it. It’s also really hard to quit, at least for me.
I know this because I have quit hundreds of times. Sometimes it’s lasted months, sometimes it’s lasted hours. Always, I’ve started again. I’m a frequent failure when it comes to quitting things.
I have many health problems, and although my tobacco use doesn’t link directly to any of them, I know full well that it certainly hasn’t helped. The need to quit looms large in my life, and I receive help and support from my loved ones, including my wife.
And I’m proud to say that I’ve mostly quit. I do go entire seasons without purchasing a can of chew, and once nearly an entire year without it. Currently I’m on a lengthy no-tobacco stretch, I’m happy to say. Pray that it endures.
Occasionally my wife will ask me how my tobacco use is going, and often I tell her the truth, but sometimes I’ve lied to her. I’ll say something like, “oh, I haven’t bought a can of chew for weeks,” when the fact is, I actually bought one last week.
And I immediately hate myself. Why did I just lie to this person, the one person in the world who I never lie to? The one person in the world who I can trust with my deepest fears and anxieties. Why did I just lie to her?
The answer is simple — embarrassment. I know I’ve failed, and I’m disappointed in myself. I don’t want her to be disappointed in me, too. The actual facts embarrass me, so I change the facts.
So this is how I know why there was a big banner hanging across the front of a house in downtown Charles City, overlooking Central Park, during the Fourth of July Weekend celebration. The banner read “Trump Won.” The banner is a huge lie, literally in bold-face.
It’s there because the person who hung it is embarrassed. The actual facts are embarrassing, so the person is trying to change the facts.
Of course, Trump did not win the 2020 election. He lost, and he lost by a wide margin. He lost the popular vote — something he never won, not even in 2016 — and more importantly, he lost the electoral vote. More individuals voted against him than voted against any other sitting president in history.
Claims that there was something shady about the election, that it was somehow “rigged” against Trump, are lies. Not opinions, not other sides to the story — they are lies. You could put “Trump Won” in neon on a banner that covers the entire block, and have the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra play “God Bless America” in perpetuity, and it would not make it any more true.
Trump lost, and it’s embarrassing to a lot of Trump’s supporters, so they think that if their lies are big, bold and loud enough, the truth will somehow change. It won’t.
Most voters felt Trump was a failure as president, and most voters voted against him. For those who loved him, that’s tough to take, but had they been alert to the facts, they wouldn’t have been so shocked.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Trump lost, to anyone who was paying attention. He was by far the least popular president in modern history. During his entire term, his approval rating among American voters never once went above 50%, and was usually around 40% or lower. Most people didn’t like him, as a president or as a person. So most people voted against him. That’s not a shock.
He was impeached twice, he attacked both supporters and adversaries personally, in the most infantile terms, and yet, he could never take even the least bit of criticism. He built very little good will. He kept very few of his promises, and threw anyone who called him out on that under the bus.
His fault or not, he was president during the biggest employment collapse since the Great Depression. Many saw his lack of action to be at least partially responsible for more than half a million COVID-19 deaths. It would have taken an act of God for Trump to win re-election after that.
Even the thing his supporters liked the most about him — the idea that he was a straight-shooter who spoke the truth in plain language — became a liability. The more he talked, the more people realized he was lying — about nearly everything.
You don’t have to do all that much research to find the lies. Among the tens of thousands of documented falsehoods, the guy came right here to Iowa and said that wind turbines were unbearably loud (they are about as loud as the refrigerator in your kitchen) and they killed countless numbers of birds — including bald eagles (wind turbines kill about as many birds as Trump’s buildings do).
He also said that when the wind doesn’t blow, people can’t watch television (which only proves that he never paid attention in 7th-grade science class) and that wind turbines somehow cause cancer (which is so ridiculous a premise that it actually causes me pain to attempt to refute it, so I won’t.)
That’s four obvious lies, in two short paragraphs. If the guy at the end of the bar said those things, you’d laugh his sorry butt out of the tavern.
Because he is a (former) president, however, Trump’s serial lying can cause serious and irreparable damage, nationally and worldwide, and it sometimes has.
On his way out the door, for instance, those lies helped incite an insurrection. That’s never happened before, in this country. That had to be really embarrassing for his supporters — so embarrassing that they feel the need to pretend it never happened, or to rationalize it, with more lies.
Those who bend over backwards to help perpetuate those lies — like Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and whoever put up the “Trump Won” banner overlooking Central Park — are all partially responsible for that damage.
But at least we know why they behave that way.
Their guy lost. Their guy failed. They’re embarrassed, because they believed in him. So they’re trying to change the facts.
No one likes to hurt, and nothing hurts more than the truth.