I think it was in kindergarten when I remember being told the story of little George “I cannot tell a lie” Washington and the cherry tree he confessed to his father he had chopped down. Through this vignette, my classmates and I were admonished to always tell the truth. The only problem was that often told tale … is a lie, a fabricated fable of fibbing fiction. It was actually created by biographer, Mason Locke Weems, as an anecdote laudable to Washington’s character and as an “exemplary to his countrymen”. Nevertheless, this fractured fairy tale is almost as hallowed as the national anthem.
When I was 2 years old, the US Congress passed the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Resolution’ granting President Johnson the wanton power to take military action as he saw fit in Southeast Asia, ostensibly to combat the spread of communist aggression. The passage of the resolution, enabling Johnson to launch America full-tilt into the Vietnam war, was predicated on a fabricated set of events suggesting that American naval vessels had come under unprovoked attack by the North Vietnamese.
When I first heard the above tale, I remember being skeptical. I’m not sure why my ‘bullshit detector’ went off that day. Perhaps it was the result of a burgeoning character flaw or a latent psychic ability to perceive the teacher’s own insincerity in her own overly dramatic rendition of the fable. Some might say that my lack of gullibility at that tender age speaks volumes of my character or my perception of ethics. And, indeed early on I began to question my moral constitution. In retrospect, I was ‘loony’ to do so.