One example which comes to mind rather quickly is the notion that all of our problems will be solved if we simply lower (I suppose eliminate would be viewed as better, yet) all taxes on the well-off (and probably on all businesses, as well) because they are the “job creators” who will automatically use these benefits to invest in business expansion, create new jobs and, thereby, resolve all of our economic problems. In fact, this basic idea seems to have been the cornerstone of Republican economic ideas for quite a while.
(Disclaimer: I confess a tendency to be more likely to support the ideas of the Democratic party than the Republican one, but mostly I’m opposed to overly simplistic ideas which don’t seem to work wherever they come from.)
This use of repetition seems to be the case with the “job creators” idea. After all, as I remember it, this notion became a leading one during the Regan administration and has, to some extent, been tried in a lot of Republican controlled areas for more than thirty years. Now, it doesn’t require a lot of research to discover that during this period the rich have gotten richer and the rest of us haven’t even held our own. What happened to all of those “good jobs” that the “job creators” were going to create? I have seen little evidence that the results which were supposed to be achieved have appeared.
Closely related to the “job creators” notion is the one that government regulation and interference is what is preventing the positive aspects of this policy from reaching fruition. Again, as I see the record, most of the recent economic troubles are a direct result (or appear to be) of a lack of judgment on the part of banks and other financial institutions as to how to protect investments which they undertook as a result of the reduced regulation they desired, and got. That allowed them to “play,” with our” money, in the process taking risks which, previously, would not have been allowed. Of course, when they got into trouble, the rest of us (in the form of the government) had to take steps to keep the economy afloat, which they then criticized as “government interference.”
I confess that I don’t understand how it came to be that “The Government” somehow became the bad guy in so many people’s political thinking. If one reads the Constitution (Is that a “dangerous” idea?), it seems rather clear that “We, the People…” ARE “the government,” or are supposed to be. One only has to read the Preamble to get that.
It makes me wonder if students actually even read, let alone study, the Constitution in school any more? I know that I had to learn the Preamble by heart when I was in eighth grade and I was even required to be able to write it out completely and correctly (including correct punctuation and spelling). I can’t do that any more, but I admit that I don’t see where such a practice would hurt anyone. Who knows, perhaps an electorate which was better informed about the nature of our government, as defined by the Constitution, might take its responsibility of choosing leaders a bit more seriously, rather than just responding emotionally to what the candidates claim is the “truth.” Our “leaders” might actually lead!
Another idea which seems to fit the pattern of what I have called “the big lie,” is the notion that the United States is a Christian country, founded by Christians and intended to be ruled by Christian principles. Now, I have no real problems with the fundamental principles of Christianity. I attended a Christian Church as a youngster, was baptized and became a member of a Christian (Protestant) denomination. I like to think the things I learned in that church about “do unto others,” “turn the other cheek,” “don’t cast the first stone,” etc. have been a significant force in my life and that they have had a positive influence on my actions.
On the other hand, one doesn’t have to look very far into history to discover that the First Amendment was created for the specific reason that not all the Founding Fathers were, in fact, Christians. I seem to remember a few Deists, for example; and the ones who were Christian came from a variety of denominations (not all of which always got along with each other terribly well). In fact, if one looks a little further in history, one can find many cases of one group of Christians fighting with another group due to differences, at least in part, over who was the “correct” sort of Christian. I find that somewhat ludicrous! There are also many historical examples of groups of Christians fighting with people who weren’t Christian, at least in part, because “those” people wouldn’t accept the idea that Christianity was the only “correct, true” religion.
As I’ve gotten older, and studied a bit about various spiritual traditions (let’s avoid the all too “loaded” term “religions”), what I’ve found is that most of them have, when you get down to the fundamentals, a great deal in common. Yes, they have different practices, different terms, different names, etc., but they all seem to be trying to provide a set of answers to the same basic questions: Who are we?; Where did we come from?; Why are we here?; and, How does one live a “good” life? Strangely enough, the answers to many of these questions, especially the last one, seem pretty similar. The ideas I listed above as being ones I learned in a Christian church (although I think I learned them from my parents long before I ever thought about them as “religious” in their orientation) seem pretty much universal.
So, I have strayed from my point a bit. The “big lie” as I see it of the “Christian” nature of our country lies mostly with the idea that, since Christianity (specifically, the form of it which a specific group chooses to follow) is the only acceptable form and no other one should be tolerated, this MUST be what the Founding Fathers intended for all.
If the Founders had intended for the US to follow the ideas of any particular sect, denomination, religion or spiritual tradition, it doesn’t seem likely that they would have forbidden the government (“We, the People…”) from establishing any sort of official religion or from limiting other people’s right to practice their religious beliefs as they chose. I LIKE the First Amendment! There are several provisions of it that I haven’t touched on here, although I may get around to discussing them at some later time.
It does seem to me, however, that even the few examples I have indicated might go a way towards making people think about the “big lies” we are being told by far too many of our political figures. Just saying what you think your constituents want to hear (probably based on careful polling) doesn’t make it the truth. The truth is much less comfortable, but is, probably, worth the effort to discover. There IS a difference between “fact” and “belief,” after all. Ultimately, a fact is a fact (isn’t that what we mean by “truth”) and a “fact” can be shown to be one, at least until there is real evidence to suggest that it isn’t.
I wish more of us (we ARE the ones who elect these “leaders,” after all) would make more of an effort to try to discover the facts about the issues. I suspect that they are important. We don’t have to agree on much of anything else, but I think we should try to discover what the facts are and try to base our decisions on them. And, I think we should expect our leaders to do the same. After all, while everyone is entitled to their own opinions, they aren’t entitled to their own facts. Those should be pretty much the same for everyone. Wouldn’t it be nice to have leaders who made laws based on verifiable facts, not just on whatever they thought would get them reelected?