On February 22, 2012 CBS ‘This Morning’ News ran a piece on the Supreme Court hearing a case about lying about military honors and service. There is a law on the books that makes it a federal crime to lie about any medals or bogus awards claimed, but, in reality, false. Point in case, if you never received any medals, but you said you did. The law being argued before the Supreme Court is based upon just such a false claim.
That’s right, if you did not show courage and valor while falling on a hand grenade to protect your comrades, you can’t say you did. If you really did not win the Congressional Medal of Honor you cannot say you did! Or if you never served your country you cannot say you did and claim to be a Veteran. Imagine that. This law does promise to step on a lot of toes in high places, doesn’t it? What a bugger.
For clarity let us repeat the premise and the law under scrutiny that has reached the Supreme Court. Again. To not be able to speak freely even if what you are saying is a lie, some civil liberties organizations say is a clear violation of free speech under the First Amendment. Some groups even contend that in the interest of the First Amendment to the Constitution, a person should be allowed to lie about receiving the Navy Cross or the Congressional Medal of Honor, even if totally false, and that right to lie should be protected under the free speech amendment to the Constitution.
Major Xavier Alvarez told persons in California that he had received the Congressional Medal of Honor and had been a Marine for 25 years. It was all a lie. Big fabrication. He got a year in federal prison for his lie. He is now appealing to the US Supreme Court.
I have always believed in protecting the First Amendment Right of free speech, but this is carrying things a bit too far. If a person is running for a political office should he be allowed to lie and embellish his military valor (real or imagined) perhaps to garner a winning vote and perhaps to be elected? Is it in the interest of free speech to allow unchecked, a person to tell bald-faced lies about his military service and winning medals for valor? When it never happened? And should he be allowed to campaign on that falsehood, perhaps to fool the voters and get elected to high office?
Hey, and what if a person lies about ever serving in the first place, like when Bush II said he served under General Turnipseed, Commandant of the Alabama Air Guard? Even when the good General himself said he never saw Bush at his command in Alabama? According to the General who did his flight training in Corpus Christi, he said he certainly would have known about if a Texas pilot like Bush had been assigned to his command. But the general had no knowledge of Bush’s service in his command in Alabama. It still appears that Bush was AWOL. And got out of the Draft and foxhole duty in Viet Nam by joining the Texas Air Guard. And nobody cared whether he had to perform his duties and report for muster during Reserve meetings? Guess not. It was not a hot news item then. And even more obscure today. But there really is a law on the books about lying about your military service. Interesting.
In my opinion having to do some prison time for lying about your military service is a bit harsh. I would favor a stiff fine, but I would be in favor of a punishment for such a dishonor to all the brave servicemen and women who did serve.
All free speech rights under the Constitution must have limitations just as it is in libel and slander offenses. In exercising free speech there should be no injury to another person or government. No one or no group should suffer because of the lie. The greatest concern should be the public good. If you lie and get elected, in my opinion, you have wronged individuals who have instilled their trust in a you, a fiduciary candidate to tell the truth and serve them well. Everyone knows that politicians lie. But when it is provable that a politician lied to get elected by embellishing his military service he should be disqualified from that office. Who knows, if he gets catapulted by those lies to governor or even president, he might just lie again about something big. Like invading a sovereign country. Like Iraq, maybe.
Corporations cannot make false claims about their products in order to sell them. Such lies carry no free speech protection under the Constitution. So should it be with candidates running for public office. If it can be proven that they are lying to get elected, or to receive some other favor, they should be prosecuted under the law.
I used to care about Truth. I even wrote a TPJ Column on Truth back in May of 2009, “Why We Should Preserve Truth at All Costs”
I wrote another piece on the Master Liar of all time, Joseph Goebbels who helped Hitler ascend to a world power fueled with lies that almost destroyed the human race.
I guess one could say I was in my Truth Period back then. Truth seemed so real and simple, that it was more than easy to believe that everybody wanted it, embraced it, and pursued it. Thus, when was I ever not living in good faith, in short, embracing truth? Well, I cannot tell a lie, and everybody can answer for themselves, but I, as 1 human out of (how many is it now?) 7 Billion on the planet as we speak, have been guilty of lying. Every day. You know, lies of convenience. To avoid pain. Or a painful decision. Or like in making excuses for not going to have coffee or drinks with the new neighbors, the usual stuff. In studying the anatomy of a lie we quickly realize, though, that we must qualify the lie and the types of lies of which we speak. In my book harmless lies told when your business is none of anybody else’s business, all white lies told are fair game. I would encourage one on such occasions to embellish to his heart’s content. And one is permitted in telling oneself that it really is not a lie as long as you don’t say that to your inner self or believe it yourself. Fair enough? Being about Truth and Lies is a heady business, indeed.
We will not be spending time on lies of no importance, the lies that do not harm another human or race of humans or even city hall the entity that collects our taxes. For purposes of studying the human race and why it lies like a cheap Persian rug is the topic. We choose, I think, to lie when we can gain power, money, or position. We also tend, as a species, to lie to avoid the pain of loss of power, money, and/or position. There.
We tell our children to be honest, to tell the truth, and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yet no one, adults or children on the face of the planet seems to be able to perform and live such a simple life. Truth and preserving it is an arduous task many of our fellow humans consider to be a waste of time. Why bother, they tend to snark and grouse, that, hey dude, there ain’t no money in it. Now there’s a truth. Out of nowhere.
Where lies really take a heavy toll is when rulers of countries abuse their power. Hitler wantonly killed over 7 million Jews. Stalin, put to death over 30 million of his countrymen during the purge and imprisoned even more. Death and imprisonment often follow the big-scale lies perpetrated against fellow humans and countrymen that any given tyrannical leader feels a need to dispatch. To the other world. But wait, maybe Hitler and Stalin just got carried away with the sweet smell of power when it came to ruling their respective peoples. Maybe the horrible end always began with little lies, told with a “wink, wink” and a smile the camera loves. Perhaps that was the spark that enabled the big lie and destruction to follow. Stay tuned for Part II where we shall explore how some charismatic presidents sold us the big lie and got away with it Scott free.