A holiday observance is almost upon us, and in view of testimony about “The Big Lie” at the Jan. 6 hearings, it couldn’t be approaching at a more appropriate time.
But I’m not referring to July 4, with all its fanfare and home-grilled Whoppers. I’m talking about July 7, a day set aside for eschewing whoppers with a small “w.”
Our former president may be unaware of this, but the Seventh is “National Tell the Truth Day.”
The origin of this unofficial holiday a decade ago is obscure, but websites galore urge us to spend the day telling it like it is.
This is commendable, but compromises some of the bromides we provide our kids, like, “Looks don’t matter.” Truth be told, they do – but since we wish otherwise, it’s only human kindness to soften the blow. As for “Money can’t buy happiness,” maybe not – but it sure beats poverty as a mood enhancer.
Some have wisdom enough to make the plain truth dazzle, and they should be the heroes of July 7.
I’ll give the Medal of Honor to Suzanne Collins, author of the young adult book series The Hunger Games, who wrote, “I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. I am as radiant as the sun.”
The problem on the Seventh, of course, is how to temper truth with mercy. Fantasy writer George Martin alluded to that when he wrote, “People often claim to hunger for the truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.”
One U.S. president, James A. Garfield, subscribed to that when he observed, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
Speaking of presidents, Give-em-hell Harry Truman summed up Garfield’s sentiments when he declared, “I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
Winston Churchill was certain that the straightforward is often unwanted.
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth,” he said, “but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
Sweetening reality’s medicine with spoonfuls of sugar runs counter to the spirit of July 7, so we must disqualify Korean War Gen. Oliver P. Smith, who said when his troops were falling back in battle: “We are not retreating. We are merely advancing in another direction.”
Proponents of “Tell the Truth Day” advise that a recent study shows “human beings tell about two lies per day,” and that the holiday gives us “an entire 24 hours to come clean… celebrate sincerity by telling the truth for a full day.”
I (mostly) endorse that sentiment, but suspect we’d see more fireworks than on the Fourth if we spent all day telling nothing but the naked truth.
Still, we owe thanks to the courage of Jan. 6 witnesses – people of integrity who were forthright about their confrontations with the menace of political thuggery.
So we’ll leave the last word on this to President Garfield, who presciently observed:
“A brave man is a man who dares look the devil in the face and tell him that he is a devil.” Gerry Goldstein (email@example.com), a frequent contributor, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.