Friday, November 22, 2013

The First Lie

It was around 1:30 in the afternoon.  Physics class in high school. Some student or other came in and announced that the President had been shot.  After physics was mechanical drawing, but we didn't do any schoolwork in that class.  Instead, and since we'd heard by then that he was dead, we tried to reconstruct the line of succession (just where did Carl Albert fit in?) and debated over how many more officials had to die before the line of succession would get us to a President we'd like.

And then it was the subway home and days of television and Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald and a bullet and from then on there would be nothing but uncertainty because --

Because it wasn't just Kennedy and Oswald who were killed and it wasn't just Jackie's suit that was spattered with blood.  We were, a generation and onward, spattered.  And if we'd ever had any trust, it was killed.

What we learned (really we learned many things, but the one I'm interested in here) was that when our parents and our teachers taught us that the authorities could be trusted, that Father didn't Know Best (no, the upper-case letters aren't typos), that policemen were our friends, and that . . . .

What we learned, though it took a while to fully learn it and some people never really did, was what Crime and Federalism uses for a tag line.
Because everything I was ever told was a lie.
Which is at least close to true.  And what is absolutely true is that the first lie is
Trust us.
I don't know whether Oswald acted alone and on his own.  I don't know whether Jack Ruby did. Whatever you think, however sure you may be, neither do you.  And you can study what passes for the evidence all you want.  You still won't know (though you might believe with certainty, and it's possible you'll be right).

The first in Francis Bacon's Essays is "Of Truth."  It begins this way. 
What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.

The thing about innocence is that once you've lost it you can never get it back, though you may catch fleeting glimpses of it from time to time.

Two songs from the old days.

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