Something has been bothering me for a few days that has had me scratching my head, pondering the meaning of life, and some other stuff as well. Some of it may even have some intellectual depth, but if so, it is entirely by accident. Or maybe not. Maybe it comes from one of those shared memory things from past lives, previous generations, or something else for which we mere mortals have thoroughly inadequate explanation.
A fellow poster of comments at another milblog recently made the statement “everyone lies.” Is that really a commonly held belief? Is it even true, or true in many communities, now? It was not true in the world in which I was raised and it is not now true in the world in which I live. Of course, some people do lie with a good degree of regularity. Some people even lie when it would be easier to tell the truth. Lies are something we expect from some segments of society, but has lying really become something which is so cavalierly accepted?
That possibility is disturbing to me. Basic honesty is something which Americans historically admired and took pride in the doing. Yes, many folks were honest because it was morally correct behavior. Many still are. But is wide acceptance of “everyone lies” an indication that we have lost simple honesty as a national aspiration? And can we still be honest without getting into some moralistic brouhaha?
There is another reason to be honest that has always worked for me. Telling the truth is easier and requires less energy than does keeping straight who knows which lie. Even over time as we tend to forget details, retelling a story from long ago will still be in the main the same as the original story, if the original story was told truthfully. So, for the lazy among us, telling the truth is a simple choice to make just because it is easier.
But does being truthful mean that we must hurt people with our honesty? Sometimes, but in most situations it is not required. Assessing that is one of the rites of passage to maturity we face as young adults and in the process develop ways of getting along well with others. “Do these pants make me look fat?” Well, actually, they do not because it is your fat that makes you look fat, not the pants. So I can honestly say a simple, “NO!” while being utterly truthful. In most cases.
On the other hand, is complete and total honesty a mandate? Usually not because there are not enough hours in the day to tell everyone you meet everything you know. We edit almost everything we say and share, so any sentence might be viewed as not being the complete truth. Most of the time that is good. It gives us the opportunity to express our thoughts with some degree of diplomacy. Or to not share our complete thoughts on why someone might look a tad heavy in those new pants.
So what does any of this have to do with the veteran community? In the larger sense, no more than it has to do with the society from which we veterans came. After all, we reflect society and are a microcosm of it. But, each of us in military service or veterans of military service swore oaths which most of society never did. We understand and take seriously the words duty, honor, and service. Although not often spoken, trust and honesty are part of that for us. At least among ourselves.
Perhaps that is why it so offends us when a fellow veteran violates our trust by lying about or embellishing their military service. No, everyone does not lie, especially about their military service.