The new reality

The inability to differentiate the real from the illusion and fact from opinion seem to have escalated virally

BRATTLEBORO — In these early days of 2023, we have been introduced to the concept of “embellishment” as a synonym for lying. I believe it is a new interpretation of the word, as I cannot find it in my Roget’s Thesaurus.

A certain Congressperson claims not to have lied on his resume but merely to have embellished it. If you have two good knees, how is claiming to have two knee replacements an embellishment? Is a claim to have relatives who survived the Holocaust when you have none an embellishment or a lie?

It is useful to examine words and phrases that have been newly introduced into our vernacular, our common language, and how they might affect our perceptions of reality. We have become very accustomed to some of these new terms: I have written about the increased use of words such as monetize, weaponize, and existential. We have seen the power of alternative facts or true facts as delivered by White House press secretaries and their personnel.

I was surprised, but not shocked, to learn that Congress has no rules or regulations — or possibly even ethical standards — regarding the truthfulness of its members.

I have learned from what we have witnessed from those who have testified before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack: It is not a lie if you present facts that you experienced in an alternative reality and really believe in them.

The inability to differentiate the real from the illusion and fact from opinion seem to have escalated virally. Maybe this is long-haul disillusionment on my part.

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It gave me such pause to think about what the House Ethics Committee really does, I decided to read the rule book published by that committee. I couldn’t find any reference to embellishment of any kind.

Virtually the entire text seems to be related to a Congressperson’s finances before, during, or after serving their respective terms. Misuse and abuse of money seems to be far more important than misuse or abuse of the truth.

It leads me to believe that I could represent myself with whatever embellishments I choose without fear of retribution — as long as money is not involved.

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Given our collective experience with the immediately previous administration, I am not surprised about the current state of affairs, or affairs of state, as embellishment was an almost daily activity.

I clearly recall from statements made by former President Donald Trump as to how quickly we would recover from Covid and how few Americans would ever be affected by it.

Lies about one’s education, physical or mental fitness, and personal finance also made their way into many White House press briefings. Whatever a first-term Congressperson has to say about their version of reality is very small potatoes compared to the words of the previous embellisher-in-chief.

So where do we go from here? How do we set our decoder rings or other decryption devices so as to survive in this new reality?

For me, the biggest question is not what we do with the identified embellishers but what we do with those who either choose to believe the embellishments and/or those who choose to do nothing about what they know to be embellishments.

That is the existential question.

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