Years ago, when my daughter was just getting used to college in a western town, one of the first things that she noticed – that made such an impression on me that I remember it to this day – was that her classmates there did not mean what they said. She was used to peers who said what they meant, who said stuff that they would deliver on. Like, “let’s meet at the Shack at 5:30 this afternoon” or “let’s talk at 8:30 tonight.” She observed that her college classmates said what they said just to fill the vacuum of “it’s my turn to say something” without worrying much about what they said, and without intending to follow through on what they had carelessly promised.
I understand that it is easier, more polite, and more socially productive to say “see ya later” than it is to say “hey, you are not really my best friend and I don’t really care if I never see you again.” I understand that if we always told the truth – the raw (and impolitic) truth of the moment – we’d have nary a single friend left in the world. At least, that is the way some of us think, and act.
Which leads me to ask the following question: How hypocritical of us is it to demand of our politicians what we don’t demand of each other – to tell the unvarnished truth – what we don’t even demand of ourselves?
And here is a follow-up question: is the “unvarnished truth” always “politically incorrect”? Can’t the truth be civil? Must it be inflammatory and crude?