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The Cowards Among Us

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to live in other countries and travel widely. Those experiences have taught me many things. Living and traveling in places other than your home country give you perspective you cannot acquire any other way. Here are three things among the hundreds I have learned by traveling and living in countries other than the U.S.

#1: Most other countries have food that tastes better and is better for you. What U.S. fast food places serve us can only marginally be called “food”.

#2: We Americans need to be be more physically active. For example, we need to walk a lot more. Americans are more obese than most everyone else.

#3: In the U.S., one of our embarrassing attributes is our over-willingness to blame others for something we did. Basically, we tend to fail at taking responsibility for our own actions.

These days, to admit that you are wrong is an act of bravery. But telling lies is still what it has always been: an act of cowardice. Current leaders who purposefully tell lies set a tone that others follow.

How we react to mistakes as compared with our reaction to lies is worth focusing on. A brief reflection reveals a great deal about the American character.

We are all mistaken or wrong from time to time. We all know that no one is perfect, so mistakes are going to be made - by all of us. Yes, to err is human and, well, you know the rest. Therefore we all accept errors and mistakes to be made, especially when we are the authors of those mistakes.

But telling lies are another matter. Telling a lie is very different from being mistaken. When we say or write something that we know is not truethat is telling a lie. Period. Knowingly saying something you know to be untrue is telling a lie.

Telling a lie is considered unacceptable in most (certainly not all) cultures. The folklore in the United States is that telling a lie is discouraged and that those with character and moral strength tell the truth, no matter what, and will do all they can to NOT tell a lie.

Unless they become a politician and aspire to elected office.

As I said, it is folklore. The notion that Americans are a people of truth-tellers is becoming less true with each passing day. Sadly, we Americans are becoming admirers of rumor mongers and inveterate liars. While we wait breathlessly for the next lie, we repeat them to anyone who will listen, like misguided middle-schoolers. Faces fixed on our cell phones, we wiggle thumbs through one myth after another, believing Twitter and its ilk as The Word.

We in the U.S. now have a political system culture that not only promotes but rewards the telling of lies. Social media such as Twitter and Instagram permit lie-telling and exaggeration. After all, there is no accountability except a countervailing tweet or post that may or may not be an even bigger whopper.

The current administration in the White House is quite (in)famous for this. The current president has been documented by independent, non-political sources to have told over 16,000 lies since taking office. But he isn’t alone; he’s just the most well-documented.

Yet as thoroughly as this culture of lies has pervaded the political culture in the U.S., the word “lie” is still a red-flag word that inflames the passions of indignation, even among those who are the most practiced of liars.

A liar will tolerate someone calling him/her out about saying something that is “untrue”, but say they are telling a “lie”? Fireworks. This may be due to the embarrassment and shame associated with being caught in a lie. More recently, I believe this aggressive reaction of the liar who is caught purposely and purposefully lying is due to something else: the liar believes that, if caught in a lie, the best tactic is not to admit their wrongdoing, but rather go on the offensive and explode in indignation, usually causing the rightful accuser to back down.

Admitting a lie requires strength and character. So does calling a liar out when a lie is told.

But going on the offensive as if the lie were never told? That, my friends, is an act of cowardice. It shows neither character nor courage. Like all acts of cowardice, it is a demonstration of fear and insecurity.

So is blaming others for our actions.

I was recently in a shop which specialized in expensive antiques, many made of glass. There were several signs around the neat showroom declaring, “You break it, you bought it”. I accept the sign because it tells me what I already should know: If I touch things and break them, it is MY responsibility. This is sensible since how I handle fragile objects is MY responsibility.

When it comes to our actions, “if you did it, you own it”. Period. To blame others for what you did is another act of cowardice, not unlike telling a lie. Show some character and take responsibility for your actions.

See if you can distinguish character and cowardice in these three examples:

1. If I throw a baseball and damage your window, it is MY responsibility.

2. If I park my car poorly and damage your car, it is MY responsibility.

3. If I tell people that you might be having intimate relations with a donkey and my lie

damages your reputation, it is MY responsibility.

The difference?

#1 and #2 were accidental; they were errors, mistakes. Stuff happens. Admit it then fix it: CHARACTER.

#3 was a lie, an untruth told knowingly. This was a lie, innuendo, hurtful rumor, and nonsense told by a liar. You did it, you own it: COWARD.

And if you call the liar out for the rumor monger he/she is, the liar will likely get his/her hackles up, become enraged and spew another venomous lie. This Chasm of Cowardice just gets deeper and deeper.

So, here it is: Make a mistake? We can forgive you. Just step up and own up.

Tell a lie or refuse to take responsibility for your actions?

So, here it is: Make a mistake? We can forgive you. Just step up and own up.

Tell a lie or refuse to take responsibility for your actions? Well, I don’t know if Hell exists, but the Chasm of Cowardice can get pretty deep.

©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore.

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