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Faction: Truth Made to Order

I admit that I have found much to disagree with in regards to the policies of President Barack Obama, but the latest revelations about his memoirs trouble me far beyond his policies.  The longer I contemplate this, the more I fear that our society is fundamentally unraveling.  If this work of fiction is met with a dismissive air by the mainstream media and the general public, then a moral fissure has opened up in our culture that swallows up truth in a morass of dishonesty and deceit.

According to a thoroughly researched, 600 page book by David Maraniss, Barack Obama: The Story, Obama’s autobiography utilizes a technique called composite, which is the fabrication of certain personalities in his past who are not authentic people, but are spoken of in the book as real friends or acquaintances.  They are a compilation of opinions, traits and attitudes representative of groups of people in society.  The book also features summaries of events and circumstances that are portrayed as actual historical happenings with names, dates and places.  In addition, there are other incidents related by Obama that contain intentional departures from fact, evidently to manipulate the real story from its mediocre moorings into a compelling narrative.  These are strong allegations, but Maraniss interviewed dozens of Obama’s friends, roommates, classmates, co-workers and professors who categorically deny the reality of many of these stories. 

Lest the reader think that this article is a partisan political attack, please note that there has been no serious attempt to deny the veracity of Maraniss’s book.  In fact, the memoir seems to find many who justify it.  Certain supporters for the President provide cover for any of its excesses.  “Gerald Early, a noted professor of English literature and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, agreed. ‘It really doesn’t matter if he made up stuff,’ Early told Fox News. ‘I mean, after all, it’s like you going to a psychiatrist and you make up stuff, and the psychiatrist can still psychoanalyze you because they’re your lies.’”  (Henry Percy, The American Thinker).  Percy also offers the following quote.  “’Autobiographies are not really good sources if you’re looking for absolute complete factual accounts of someone’s life,’ agreed Professor Early.  ‘Autobiographies serve another kind of purpose for the person writing the book. I don’t think it much matters whether Barack Obama has told the absolute truth in Dreams From My Father. What’s important is how he wanted to construct his life.’”* In other words, we know these are lies, but they are lies he wanted people to believe.

Huge red flags go up over apologies like these.  To begin with, let’s assume Professor Early is right about autobiographies not being good sources for absolute truth.  I would agree if the book is intended to be simply a personal viewpoint of an individual life.  Who cares, for example, if General Douglas MacArthur wrote an autobiography in his sunset years to exonerate himself for his head butting with President Harry Truman?  MacArthur was no longer a player in the national or world scene.  His book made a difference to no one except historians.  But Dreams from My Father was neither an attempt to set the record straight nor a hasbeen’s farewell.  It was a calculated piece written to cast the author in a favorable light with the hope of attaining a high political office.  It is tantamount to saying, “I know people are going to believe falsehoods, so I’m going to give them the falsehoods of my own choosing before they make up their own.”

Mythology surrounds many historical figures.  George Washington probably did not chop down a cherry tree; it is unlikely that Abraham Lincoln did his homework on the back of a shovel with a lump of coal, or that he walked miles in the snow to return a damaged book to its owner; Andrew Jackson was an educated, polished statesman, not a backwoods hick in leather togs and a coonskin cap.  Americans have grown accustomed to such legends and they retell them with the understanding that they are fables with a moral basis. There is a vast difference, however, between legends growing up around you and writing your own.  The first is human nature, the second is premeditated with motive.

If Mr. Obama’s intention was to highlight the historic struggle of being black in America, or to call attention to the more specific emotional and psychological plight of those with racially mixed backgrounds, then he would have garnered great sympathy from caring Americans.  But, couldn’t this goal be achieved by telling the true stories of others?  All of his angst and anger with the system could have legitimately been expressed without pretending that they were his personal stories.  Placing himself as the protagonist, his motive becomes suspect and he actually does a disservice to those he intended to help.  It seems as though he used their suffering mainly to advance his own political career.  Racism is indeed an ugly blight on this nation’s face, but it will never be eradicated by subversive means. 

Also, there is something dysfunctional, even sinister, the way Professor Early makes use of the psychiatrist analogy.  Is he implying that the President resembles a mental health patient who needs his lies analyzed?  Are lies now preferred to truth?  Are we now so incapable of inferring proper conclusions from a truthful recounting of circumstances that we have to be spoon fed made-to-order lies?  Is not this the highest of insults?  Are there deep, dark forces churning within him that shape our president’s policies?  Whatever the professor’s meaning, we are left with a profoundly disturbing scenario in which truth is victimized by deliberately crafted symbolism. 

The assault on truth has reached titanic proportions in the last few decades.  Those who advance historical revisionism, political correctness and holocaust denial are some of the secular perpetrators.  Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes that evangelicals are also dealing with the evisceration of truth “Some evangelicals are embracing the radical subjectivity, perspectivalism, dehistoricism, and relativism of the postmodernist academy. In the name of a paradigm shift, the claim to objective truth has itself been forfeited by some evangelicals. Book and chapter titles such as Truth Is Stranger Than It Used To Be and “There’s No Such Thing as Objective Truth and It’s a Good Thing, Too” serve notice that postmodernism is not merely a problem external to evangelicalism.”  All of this is, of course, a blatant repudiation of the premise of the scientific method which was drilled into my generation’s collective head.  It used to be “follow truth wherever it leads.”  Now, it is “make truth follow me wherever I lead.”  It is a high-speed rail to devastation.

These criticisms focus on Barack Obama, not because of pedestrian politics, but because Dreams of My Father capitalizes on this present truth-bending phenomenon.  One needs only to follow the logic to envision the depths to which this practice will take our society.  If leaders can operate behind a fabricated façade created for public consumption, they can do whatever they wish.  Their actions are always reported by a complicit media to be congruent with their propaganda. I do not for a minute believe that others are innocent of these charges.  If, however, they are always called out for their lies, if they openly admit their wrongs, if their projected images are denounced by a truth-seeking press, then it is possible for them to be forgiven and forced to make amends.  If, on the other hand, we permit certain people to forge a narrative to serve their own purposes, and if we accept their schemes as the inevitable outcome, then we are doomed.  The lie is the “truth.”  Except when it is not.  Ultimately, it is not.  If the house is on fire and we believe it is not, our misguided faith will not save us. 

“It is as much a crime to disturb the peace when truth prevails as it is to keep the peace when truth is violated. There is therefore a time in which peace is justified and another time when it is not justifiable. For it is written that there is a time for peace and a time for war and it is the law of truth that distinguishes the two. But at no time is there a time for truth and a time for error, for it is written that God’s truth shall abide forever. That is why Christ has said that He has come to bring peace and at the same time that He has come to bring the sword. But He does not say that He has come to bring both the truth and falsehood.” -Blaise Paschal. 

“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.  The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”  2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (NIV)


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