I often wonder why we don’t take lies seriously anymore. Back in the age of the Vikings, the worst insult you could inflict on a Norseman was to call him an Oath-breaker. While killing and pillaging were accepted parts of the Norse way of life, breaking a sworn promise was universally despised. Trust was an essential aspect of the Viking way of life. Villagers relied on each other to survive brutal winters, warring communities, and the constant threat of starvation. For Norse raiders, packing a bunch of warriors on a small boat, braving rough seas and harsh weather to land on foreign soil to plunder towns vastly outnumbered, made it paramount to rely on each other. Reputation within the Viking community was vital. A war chief that broke his promises suffered a loss of stature among his men and allies. And without a written language, stories were passed down by traveling skalds, so word of his dishonesty would spread throughout the regions and survive long after their death.
If a Norseman was accused of a crime, breaking the law was almost secondary to being accountable for their actions and being honest about their transgressions. In essence, lying to one’s fellow citizens was a higher crime than theft or even manslaughter.
Obviously, Vikings are an extreme example. I don’t think anyone in today’s society would rate breaking a vow over murder and sacking a town, but we have allowed dishonesty to run rampant through our culture. It has gotten to a point when politicians lie it is no longer newsworthy. We expect it. We have set our standards so low for our elected officials we no longer hold it against them when they lie, renege on campaign promises, or break their marital vows. Famous figures are embroiled continuously in sex or financial scandals, and we just shrug our shoulders to it all.
When I was growing up, we had a common saying that that “A man’s word is his bond”. We expected truthfulness, and there were consequences when someone broke his/her word. But today our government officials lie with impunity, partisan news media supports it, and the American public doesn’t seem to care. But the funny part of this, I don’t don’t blame the liars; I blame us and our indifference to it.
In recent weeks our current president has been embroiled in chaos by allegations he cheated on his wife with a porn star and a Playboy model. While I have no idea if the claims are valid, most people are already turning a blind eye to his possible transgressions. I’ve heard so many people say, “I don’t care what he does in his personal life, I want him to run the country.” While I understand what they mean, I think it misses the point. I really don’t care if he cheated on his wife, that’s between them. But what I DO take issue with is him lying to the American people about it. In fact, I take issue with anyone lying to the American people about anything. If we don’t hold our elected officials to the truth, how can we expect them to represent the country’s goals over their own? How can we expect them to uphold their oath of office? They vow to support and defend the Constitution of this country. If they break that oath, do we even have a nation anymore?
Personally, if someone can’t keep their marital vows, how can I expect them to uphold their oath of office? If you screw around with the person you have vowed before God and witnesses you will honor and cherish, forsaking all others, you will screw the American people as quickly.
Why? Because they can, because we don’t hold them to their oaths. But we should.