So this morning I’m taking my kids to school and listening to the radio. My son and I are talking about the debt ceiling, and I explain to him about debt, budgets, and the politics of the debt ceiling. At one point, my explanation becomes something like this: “It’s a lie. Everything the politicians say is a lie. The politicians who hate Obama lie about Obama and his policies. The ones on the other side lie about those guys. Politicians never tell the truth. They always overstate their claims. They always posture. They always lie. But somehow we keep moving forward.”
I have thought about this all morning. My son is 10 years old, my daughter is 7. What kind of message am I sending them by talking about our elected officials this way? Actually, to my mind, I am sending them an eminently truthful message; just check http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/, where you will find a detailed list of 400 statements, mostly from politicians and those who support or attack them in the media, that are classified as “false.” Another 160 such statements are classified “pants on fire,” meaning falser than false, I guess. But still, what should I tell my kids?
The ironic thing is that right now, our family is watching the HBO miniseries “John Adams.” We just saw the segment on drafting the Declaration of Independence last night. Are my kids going to assume the Congress that included John Adams are all liars?1 Probably not. But really, I wouldn’t care if they did.
I have decided that what I wish most for my children is for each to have an inquiring mind. I want them to think for themselves. I want them to take available information and come to their own conclusions regardless of the positions being staked out by advocates. Thankfully, in this country we do have the freedom to do just that. And I’m going to let them know that when we drive to school tomorrow.
1. If so, he’d be partially right. Sam Adams was a member of the Massachusetts delegation. After the “Boston Massacre” he distributed pamphlets that were demonstrably untrue.