Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Honesty, responsibility, and kindness. These are the three practices that Jack and I committed to when we married, and they’ve served us well. I’ve been thinking about honesty lately, at first because of knowing several fine human beings who lie to their spouses because they think it’s best for the marriage, and I felt sad for them. More recently, though, because of the machinations and soft soap lies of the school district in which I work, as the people in charge try to hold things together without enough funding. And that leads me to the larger culture, in which deceit and manipulation are so common as to seem normal and natural.
Perhaps I’m too honest. My dad was a dedicated truth-teller, much to his detriment in the mundane world, and my sister had Aspergers, which means she told the truth all the time, even when it was not courteous or socially appropriate. My mother told-it-like-it-was, since she believed she had important truths to tell, and here I am following in her footsteps. One of my greatest challenges at work is having to hold back on telling my truth, or even appearing as I truly am. Teachers are still judged by character and character is still defined as conformity.
Maybe I’m too honest. How I hate to lie! Or, maybe we should be telling the truth a whole lot more than we do. Maybe I tell just the right amount of truth . . . when I can get away with it.
Now remember, when I talk about telling the truth, I’m not referring to any grand reality or mystery revealed. This isn’t about the truth of a god or the meaning of life. I’m talking about what can be easily and clearly known. For example, the truth that most public schools are crappy places in which to learn, that it’s sick to be entertained by violence and gore, and that it’s not ok to climb to wealth and power on the backs of others.
We’ve become so accustomed to lies and manipulations from politicians, religious institutions, and corporate propaganda of all kinds that most people simply ignore them. The kids at school see dishonesty all around them and shrug it off. They think it’s human nature to lie, and many of them lie constantly and think nothing of it.
To bring this conversation back to earth, this week I’m hearing our administrators lying to us about budget cuts. Perhaps dissemble is a better word for it. They’re slashing jobs, firing reliable workers who may be the sole supports of their families, and they call it “budget adjustments.” They are closing libraries by destaffing them and they call it “look[ing] at sharing resources amongst buildings relative to the expertise offered by this position.” Yes, that’s a direct quote. What kind of bullshit babble is that? Wouldn’t we honor those workers more if we admitted the truth: You are being fired for no good reason because the schools don’t have enough money, and the schools don’t have enough money because it’s all going into the pockets of a hugely wealthy and powerful elite, funding their parties, their wars, and their corporate game-playing.
I believe in radical honesty. With every hurt caused to me by my loved ones telling me the truth, I have grown in spirit, yet every lie I’ve told has caused my spirit pain. If husbands and wives can’t tell the truth to one another, who can? If I can’t speak the truth at work, then where can I speak it? And when will we look in the mirror as a culture and see the fruits of corruption and greed?