Guest Column: Lying to Ourselves

Jim NelsonJim Nelson, Montana Supreme Court Justice, (Ret.)

By: Jim Nelson

One of life’s lessons I learned early on was that lying doesn’t cut it.  My parents would not tolerate it in any form. Being caught in a lie resulted in a mouth washing with Ivory soap, and, even worse, having to face the person lied to with a confession and apology.  

Along my journey, I have become increasingly convinced that truthfulness solves more problems than it creates.  Honesty, it has been said, is not only the best policy, but the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.

Thus, it is disconcerting to witness the moral relativism that is sweeping our Country—a nation, according to its founders, to be one grounded in declared and self-evident “truths.”

To be sure, lying as a societal modus operandi, did not just spring into existence.  Government, businesses, religious and social institutions, have lied to us from their beginnings.  And, the justifications for this dishonesty are as numerous and clever as are the human minds of their creators—whether the fabrications are for “our own good,” or to protect the “bottom line” or “national security,” or have been “divinely revealed” by whatever Supreme Being one believes in, honesty and truthfulness have always had a tenuous grasp on our species.  

That is a fact, not an endorsement, however.

Deception as a value has become systemic in politics. Americans have returned to a sort of tribalism, wherein alignment is to the party or the candidate and not to the truth.  Indeed, most dedicated partisans will vote for a candidate even knowing that he or she is a liar. Democrats were willing to support Bill Clinton, even though he looked the Country straight in the eye and said he never had “sex” (in his perception of that term) with Monica Lewinski.

And the present occupant of the White House has by one count made over 3000 false and misleading statements since he took the “oath” of office.  That works out to about 6.5 lies a day.

But, has this lack of candor hurt the Trump brand?  Nope. Indeed, the President’s pathological untruthfulness is simply now accepted as Donald being Donald. Untruthfulness has become, sadly, not a vice but a virtue— a slick way to retain power, to fool the fools.  Who cares?

We must! We must recognize that tribalism grounded in falsehoods erodes our claim to the truths upon which our Nation was founded.  We must demand honesty from those who govern us; we must insist on truth; we must reject moral relativism; facts are facts and must be acknowledged and acted upon as such.

If we as voters and citizens cannot rely on our elected officials to tell the truth, how can we possibly vote, raise our families and manage our own lives with intelligence and principle?

The bottom line is this.  If we the people do not demand truth, then we are simply lying to ourselves.

James C. Nelson

Montana Supreme Court Justice (Ret.)



41 Comments on "Guest Column: Lying to Ourselves"

  1. Geoff Badenoch | May 8, 2018 1:19 PM at 1:19 PM |

    Untruthfulness is the stock and trade of the tribalism we call partisan politics. So long as the alignment is to party, as Judge Nelson notes, it cannot be to the Republic. So long as the dedication is to a person and not the office, it cannot be to the Republic. Power over patriotism. Party over nation. That is the sickness and it affects both parties and creates the lens through which all of the nation’s issues are viewed. No wonder the Founding Fathers considered political parties “factions” and a danger to our new nation.

    • Thom Jefferson started the Democratic Party. Not that I don’t agree with much of what’s said but comparing Bill’s blow job to Trump’s crime spree is a bit much. At least Democrats reign in their Presidents -the GOP is complicit in the corruption and conspiracy with foreign adversaries.

  2. Thank you Judge Nelson.

  3. My parents and religious leaders taught me that”the ends don’t justify the means”. My parents would continue to stand by those words but I’m not sure many of our religious leaders would.

  4. Yup. From an old Republican when both parties were sane. I’m sad with what is going on.

  5. Yup. I’m an old Republican from the time when both parties were relatively sane and we could debate ideas and still be civil. Sad.

  6. Thank you for a back to basics lesson. My grandmother would always say the old adage to me,”oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”. It is more than disgusting watching our country accept these lies from the president with such nonchalance and twist them somehow into truths. Expect truth from our leaders, our businesses, our scientists, etc. Power and money are not answer. Start with some truth and the rest will follow. Vote for some truth in government.

  7. Trump’s behavior is making an unfortunate impression on our youth. They have learned that lying is acceptable and saying whatever comes into their heads is just fine. They have learned how to bully others and attack and insult whomever they wish. They have definitely learned that being consumed by narcissistic behavior is the way to success. Many previous presidents have made mistakes and have been far from perfect, but the White House is now absolutely devoid of any shred of dignity or integrity.

    • We are witnessing the most consequential president of my time (Iran, North Korea, Syria, Israel, child trafficking, health care reform, drug price reform, uncovering the deep state, etc etc etc) and the left can’t let it go that the guy laid a porn star (what guy hasn’t wanted to fuck a porn star?). I never thought I’d say it, but thank God (yes God) for Donald J Trump. The stain of Obama is being erased from history each day as more and more people wake up to the lies and deception of his presidency. Can you imagine if Billary would have won? We’d still be looking at 1.25% growth and have to listen to the lies that the government is here to give us free shit. Good grief.

      Where we go one, we go all!!

      • Wow!! Just wow!! Looking at Fenske’s comment, I haven’t seen that much rampant stupidity in one place since I couldn’t get to the remote in time to avoid seeing half a minute of one of this so-called president’s campaign speeches.

        Fenske thanks some god or other (not the one the bible talks about, trust me on that) that bigots, white supremacists, and others like himself managed to put in the most corrupt and morally bankrupt administration in US history.

        Fenske should be checking on the statute of limitations for charges of child abuse. There’s no way he got dropped on his head that many times by “accident.”

      • Liberal Science | May 11, 2018 5:11 PM at 5:11 PM |

        Yup! Your right! Ol’ Trumpy is defiantly a consequential president. We will be dealing with the consequences for decades. So your wife is cool with you doing the secretary as long as you are making a quick buck? Got it. Whore is as whore does.

      • The original Art Fenske (yep there seem to be two of us posting here) | May 11, 2018 11:18 PM at 11:18 PM |

        Nice try asshole. Maybe next time you should post as Eric or Big Swede. Go fuck yourself.

      • Art, your Eric is showing.

        • The tenor of Mister Fenske’s posts is a perfect example of the quality of character of the average Trump supporter. It’s really quite amusing.

          • Agreed. Even though more and more proof comes out that Hillary & Barry tried to rig the election, we should concentrate on the consensual sex Trump had with a porn star 20 years ago. Brilliant!

            • Liberal Science | May 21, 2018 3:00 PM at 3:00 PM |

              What proof? Can’t wait to see the evidence. It will be like watching an episode of Ancient Aliens with George Fullocrapolus. Perhaps the proof is sitting in the pile on Trump’s desk along with the smoking guns Cheetos has on Obama’s birth certificate and the 3 million illegal voters. 20 years ago for Stormy? How about 2016 for the NDA.

            • Methinks El Guano doth protest too much.

              “The preceding wall of text may appear to some as an abridged list of the Trump administration’s scandals, but this is an illusion created by the perception that these are all separate affairs. Viewed as such, the various Trump scandals can seem multifarious and overpowering, and difficult to fathom.

              There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.”


        • I know you all are looking for wisdom from me, but there honestly hasn’t been anything interesting enough to comment on here.

  8. Rocky Sehnert | May 9, 2018 7:11 AM at 7:11 AM |

    Yes, one cannot build a life much less a country on lies, but that is what has happened. Jim Nelson refers to the “Truths upon which our nation was founded.” Exactly which one were those? The one about only white property owning males being real citizens entitled to vote? The one about it was OK to treat people of color as property? Or how about, women arethe chattel property of their husbands or that native Americans were equivalent to the wild animals the colonialists encountered on the North American continent. And don’t forget the religious argument that the newcomers had every right to dominate, appropirate, and tear up the new land because of some ancient writing in a book from a small tribe of nomads living in the desert. Really, the entire American enterprise, which is what it really is, just a business,economic proposition masquerading as a political entity was founded on lies and untruths. The colonial history of the US is the history of an exploitative economic scheme to loot a continent and subjugate any peoples already living there in the name of the people who put up the money to develop lands they got by charter from a king in a foreign land. Nothing new there. The political ideas that the constitution embraced came from European philosophers not American thinkers and were designed to appear to be a democratic form of government which we now know is a load of baloney. So, the thing we need to face is not that we have deviated from some great ideas in a wonderful founding document, but that we have been living a lie since the founding. You want to get real, to make meaningful changes? Start with this in mind and we might actually get somewhere. Stop waving the flag and worshiping the constitution and the “founders.”

    • Rocky, I mean this seriously I hope we will see you running for public office. Our foundation is horribly flawed by genocide and enslavement but I hope the Dream that binds us can win out over the evils that confront us. You show a clear grasp of our problems and our possibilities. Our State and Country needs people like you to step up and serve.

  9. Jim, was it a lie that the MT Supreme Court was the one with the most overturned decisions?

    • @Big Sweaty – Actually it IS a lie that the MT Supreme Court has the most overturned decisions. Just because the far-right extremists of the Montana Policy Institute think they SHOULD be overturned doesn’t mean squat to the US Supreme Court.

      The MPI’s ties to ALEC, Koch brothers, Heritage, and every other foam-at-the-mouth reactionary group are simply based on their constant scramble for funding.

      You really should stop swallowing all those “alternative facts” that just match your own bigotry and regurgitating them here. Endlessly repeating lies doesn’t magically transform them to truth. They’re still just lies.

  10. Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge constructively while doing no harm
    and to reject proven fact tested knowledge for true belief in political agenda can do only harm as Political Party’s continue to destroy America for the sake of destroying each other for the sake of political agenda as the majority of us do not belong to a Political Party as we have no real representation in the Government as it was President General George Washington who stated
    ~ Political Parties would be a Bad Thing for this New Republic ~
    as the Clones of Political make believe reality dictate proven Lies as the Truth
    as they are the Pathological Frauds of the Truth doing only further harm to the real realities

  11. we must live for the Truth in all of Life and all of Knowledge for a better Life for all

  12. Big Swede- your question is confusing. Are you talking about the Mt Supreme Court since it’s inception? A specific year or range of years? What does that have to do with the current state of affairs and our current president and his inability to tell the truth?

  13. How come he didn’t mention Obama?

  14. Adolf Hitler used lying and propaganda to destroy the German government that he was elected to serve. Trump is using these same techniques. First voters must accept responsibility for enabling Trump. Then as we see the ship of state veering off course, we must right it.

    • What has Trumps biggest lie been so far?

      “More young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America”
      “We signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history”
      “90 percent of the budget deficit is due to George W. Bush’s policies”
      “The Keystone pipeline is for oil that bypasses the United States”
      “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it”

      Errr, wait a second. Who’s enabling what, again?

      • There are over 3,000 tRump lies to choose from, he’s averaging 6.5 lies per day.

        Funny how right now he’s blathering excitedly about creating jobs for Chinese phone maker ZTE and China just guaranteed a $500 million package to support a tRump development in Indonesia. Can you sayviolating the emoluments clause of the Constitution? How about quid pro quo?

        Kim Jung Un is playing him for the vain putz that he is.

        Soy bean farmers in the US are scared shitless about where to sell their crops because of tRump’s tariffs on China.

        Maryland crab harvesters and many other small businesses can’t get H2-B visa workers although Maralago and Eric’s vineyard don’t seem to be having any troubles getting theirs.

        Then there’s all that Russian oligarch money that has been laundered by cash purchases of his condo apartments. Qatar and Saudi Arabia (they’re Muslims ya know) are throwing money tRump’s way as well.

      • Blaze, your Eric is also showing.

  15. Here’s a whopper. “Nobody has been tougher on Russia than me.”

    China cancels all their US soybean purchases because of tRump’s tariffs. Then China buys 3 times as many soybeans from Russia.

    All those tRump voting soybean farmers can say dosvedanya [sic} to their family farms.

    Are you tired of winning yet?

  16. Laws today are based on hearsay,
    Laws not reviewed by the Law Makers before voting on their new Laws
    that Law Enforcement and Courts are then forced to enforce
    as Lunatic Garbage Science Fiction Continues to Dictate Reality

  17. make that Lunatic Garbage ~ Political ~ Science Fiction Dictates Reality

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