The Meaning of Honesty

I am the mother of a 10-year-old and a 20-year-old and have tried, very hard, to instill in them two simple principles in life: no whining and no lying. 

No whining because I wanted them to know that, no matter what happens in life, we should have the courage and nobility to dust ourselves off, pick ourselves up and move forward, chin up.

No lying because, I told them, no matter what happens in life, we should have the courage to take responsibility for our actions, the ability to endure the consequences of our actions with dignity and the strength of character to offer the world something that makes the world a better place: the truth.

I also taught them that no matter what they did, no matter how horrible, nothing would be more horrible than lying to mommy about it. Because lying to me would make me lose my respect and trust in them, and if people lose their respect and trust in you, I told them, it's harder to love them so much. And living in a world without love and trust is a scary, lonely world to live in. Pinocchio's nose grew every time he lied. Bill Clinton's didn't, but the hole he dug for himself got bigger with every lie.

The holes you dig for yourself usually do get bigger the more you lie. Now, we have Congressman Condit changing his story and losing credibility with every ugly lie.

Was there ever a time when people were more honorable? George Washington, the legend goes, couldn't tell a lie. And told his parents that he cut down the cherry tree. A moral lesson far removed from the world we live in today - a world in which we expect, more or less, everyone to lie to us - in politics, in Hollywood, at the highest levels of corporate America.

We hire people to lie for us - spin meisters, publicists, political and corporate strategists - a whole battery of people who go to bat telling tales, embellishing, deceiving,  manipulating, rearranging, and let's face it: downright fabricating. Whether it's about tires or pharmaceuticals, political agendas or whether or not someone loves you, we've come to expect the lie, twisting our lives into a lonely cynical swim for our lives through the muck of deceit. Is there no one I can trust, I ask?

Now we have the case of Richard Ellis, the Mt. Holyoke professor who rose to the top of his field, was loved by his students and his peers, and yet decided to improve on great. Improving on great means a total fabrication that he served in Vietnam as a platoon leader, supposedly in the headquarters of Gen. William Westmoreland, and to top off that big lie, he claims to have returned home, disillusioned, and joined the anti-war movement. To top off his lie, his family claims their great man had  "always had a reputation for great integrity, honesty, and honor." Huh?

And how about Mt. Holyoke, the college's, reaction? "We at the college do not know what public interest The Globe is trying to serve through a story of this nature." What? A college is claiming that deception and in essence a fraud upon their own students is basically not worth mentioning. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is on my show because if there's one thing I loathe above all else (just ask my kids and ex-husband) it's a liar.