Lies, Lies, Lies
I well remember the afternoon of Friday, May 7, 1915. A half-dozen medical students at the University of Wisconsin were leaving the laboratory to go home for the day. A newcomer arrived with an exciting message. "They have done it!" he cried. "The Germans have torpedoed the Lusitania. And now the fat's in the fire. There was no ammunition on that ship."
The argument as to whether Britain or Germany was most at fault continued for months and years afterward. Sentiment turned increasingly against the Germans, and war began to be mentioned. Finally, two years later, we were persuaded. Over fifty years later, shortly before its own tragic demise, Life (October 13, 1972) published an excerpt from Lusitania, by Colin Simpson, a British journalist who had carefully examined all the old and much new information about the Lusitania. And what does he say?
That the Lusitania was indeed heavily armed, that her manifests had been falsified to hide a large cargo of munitions and other contraband, that the English admiralty was strangely negligent in protecting the ship against attack, and that for some thirty years the United States Government purposely withheld the truth about the sinking from the public; it denied the facts and falsely accused Germany of an atrocity to arouse American sentiment against Germany.
In other words, while one cannot say that the event was staged, it was very largely maneuvered and greatly misrepresented and exploited by the British and American governments to induce hatred in the American people toward the German people. In short, we were lied to by our leaders to maneuver our country into a war for political reasons and not to "save democracy." By order of President Wilson, the truth about the Lusitania was buried until the time of President Franklin Roosevelt.
One hero stood out in all this shameful business. On September 20, 1917, Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin stated in a public speech that it was true that the Lusitania had been carrying munitions and the President was aware of it. The Senate promptly attempted to expel him for this treachery! La Follette demanded exhibition of the true manifest of the Lusitania. This was refused. Dudley Field Malone, the Collector of Customs in New York, quietly offered to testify on La Follette's behalf, and the Senate dropped the shameful charges. La Follette was one of the few public leaders who would not join in that great political lie which led to the death and maiming of millions of human beings.
I lived through these days and these conflicts of opinion and contradictory news dispatches, and the tragic years that followed. For me, lying is a sin in large letters, and lying by leaders is unforgivable.
The rally cry, "Save Democracy," still has as much appeal to us today as it did in the run-up to World War One. That war was sold as a fight for democracy and the war to end all wars. But the American people bought into a mislabeled bag of goods that they paid for with their lives. This war, and the condition that it left Germany in, set up a nation for the likes of a dictator like Adolf Hitler.
And we still follow the drum beat of lies into war. We blindly believe our politicians when they say a war is how we are defending our homeland and saving democracy.
We need to repent as a nation.
We need to stop accepting lying as the status quo.
We need to call sin what it is and refuse to allow egregious and continual sinners to lead us. A lie is a sin, yet we like to color it up and call it protection, marketing, and public affairs. How have we allowed lying to become commonplace?
We need to stop attacking those who point out that the emperor has no clothes and begin to be upset that the emperor is actually naked. It is extremely difficult to stand up against the powers that be in a society that likes to pretend that the powers that be, at least the ones on the same side of the political aisle, are never wrong. We must realize that those who we blindly accept as being right are those who are most dangerous to us.
Until our frustration is directed at the right things, we will never see any significant change. Along with expecting our leaders to not be liars, we must also direct some of our frustration on self-reflection. We need to repent and be the people that God wants us to be.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call. Psalms 20:7-9 (ESV)
Some trust in lies and deception, in money and military might, but we will trust in God. Let's stop coloring up sin in fancy, acceptable terms because sin is never acceptable.