Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

‘Liar, liar pants on fire, hanging from a telephone wire.’ 

Liar, liar pants on fire, hanging from a telephone wire. We heard that every day on the playground in elementary school. Children said it when calling out another kid’s lie. But these days it seems that grown-ups, especially our politicians, are the ones that are telling the tall tales. One research study found that the average American tells about eleven lies a week.

Liar, Liar. Engraving by John C. McRae, 1867.
“Father, I Can Not Tell a Lie: I Cut the Tree,” engraving by John C. McRae, 1867.

We all fib in big and small ways. We tell falsehoods to strangers, co-workers, friends and spouses. People learn to deceive from listening to their parents tell big fat whoppers. All parents do it. It’s part of the job description. Growing up our Moms and Dads told us about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. All of which it turns out are fictional. Other common parental mendacities included:

• If you keep making that face it’ll freeze that way
• If you swallow your gum it will stay in your stomach for seven years
• If you lie your nose will grow, and
• Keep doing that and you will go blind.

Our teachers told us lies too. For instance, we were taught that six year old George Washington cut down a cherry tree with a hatchet that he got for his birthday and then confessed the dirty deed to his father. It never happened and, by the way, who gives their six year old a hatchet? Similarly, Isaac Newton didn’t discover gravity after being struck on the head by a falling apple, Columbus didn’t discover America and Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball.

Companies also lie to get us to buy their products. Those beauty aids aren’t going to make us look younger. Exercise equipment is not going to get us back into shape, mainly because we will never use it for anything other than to hang clothes on. It is also not true that the bag of chips I devoured in the first quarter of the football game contained seven servings. It had one. I counted.

It goes without saying that the government lies to us. Some are little deceptions like the walk buttons at intersections. They don’t really do anything. Computers control when the light changes. The buttons just make you feel like you have some control. I push them anyway. Other government lies are much more serious like the fact that in 1947 at Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico [This section has been censored. Nothing was found in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947].

Of course, everybody knows that what they hear on [reader’s choice – pick one from below]
1.) Fox News

So, thanks to our parents, teachers and others we are all bald faced liars. We fib about pretty much everything and we do it without giving it a second thought.

When we see people we despise, we say it’s great to see you even though it isn’t. We tell them they look great when in fact they now look like the crypt keeper. Then we say let’s get together soon when we actually hope we never see them again.

People lie to get out of jury duty and they are not truthful on dating services or during job interviews. Catholics even lie to the priest during confession. There is no way you are going to tell a priest what you really thought, said or did. It’s too embarrassing. So, you make up less insidious things to tell him. You don’t come out with a sparkling clean soul but it beats the awkwardness associated with telling the truth. God understands.

But married people save most of their lies for their spouses. And no doubt husbands tell more falsehoods than their wives. It’s a self-preservation thing. Here are some dangerous situations that husbands commonly face and how we typically react:

1.) Wife — “Honey, you know tomorrow is our anniversary. Didn’t forget again, did you?”
Husband thinks – “Holy s**t! What am I going to buy her?”
Husband says — “Of course not. Why would you think that?”

2.) Wife says while driving – “It wasn’t my fault that we almost hit that tractor trailer.”
Husband thinks – “Our father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name ….”
Husband says – “No, No. He didn’t look before barreling through that green light.”

3.) Wife says- “Would you like to go to my parent’s house for the weekend?”
Husband thinks- “Actually I would rather be skinned alive, if that is an option.”
Husband Says- “Sure that sounds great. I would love to see them.”

4.) Wife says — “Were you staring at that other woman?”
Husband thinks — “My God that woman is hot, hot, hot.”
Husband Says — “What other woman?”

But I have been thinking that lying is sometimes ok, especially in dangerous situations like those noted above.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who never married, believed that all lies are morally wrong even little baby white lies. I disagree. I think the occasional stretching of the truth can be good if it prevents hurt feelings or helps keep the peace. And if it helps cover up a husband’s bad behavior it can be downright awesome.

I’m in the camp of English philosopher, John Stuart Mill. He held that lying or telling the truth must be judged by a calculation between advantages and disadvantages. He was married so he knew.

Mark Twain must have agreed as he once uttered that “lying is man’s best and surest friend”. He also said that, “only children and fools speak the truth”.

So, I plan to go right on lying and I’m sure you will too.

JC Wade
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