Many of us can remember when one's word was one's bond — that the truth trumps love, money and fame, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau.
The importance of truth is embedded in our culture as a nation — the myth of our first president's "I cannot tell a lie, Pa. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree." The fact that it did not happen did nothing to tarnish the lesson we all learned from that fabled quote — George Washington did not lie.
Those of us who remember our comic book and radio serial programs know that Superman, the man of steel, fought for "truth, justice and the American way."
Finally, this quote from our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln: "No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar," virtually guarantees that, regardless of how good the tale and how badly the supporters wish it true, truth will out.
However, in recent years, we have been inundated with celebrity lies — prevaricator politicians, reporters, athletes, high ranking military officers and even the clergy seem to multiply like the proverbial rabbits. Moreover, the culprits tend to equivocate and palter shamelessly but, when the deceit is uncovered, gravitate to profuse apology to colleagues, family, supporters, fans, children — anyone their sleazy behavior may have hurt.
Following the apology angle and, dependent upon the scope of the falsehood, comes the counseling phase, dependent upon the scope of the falsehood. It goes without saying that any person of status must be suffering from a mysterious malady, brought about by stress, imbalanced hormones or whatever may seem believable.
The coup de maitre (masterstroke) of celebrity fibbing goes to President Clinton and his "inappropriate relationship" with the intern Monica Lewinsky. From the dramatic televised denial "I did not...." to the profuse and hand-wringing apologies, it was a classic "first deny and then apologize."
The irony of this apology and subsequent counseling was in the 1998 selection of the Rev. Jesse Jackson as the adviser. After pronouncing the president "contrite and embarrassed" and more than ready for a stable marriage, the counselor, Jackson, found himself in similar hot water the next year.
I use this example to illustrate the foibles of elected officials from both sides of the aisle, along with straying from the straight and narrow by "rock star" politicians, athletes, movie stars, et al. Along with former Democratic Sen. and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, there have been Sens. Vitter, R-La., and Ensign, R-Nev., with similar falls from grace.
The issue troubling me the most is the illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs by so many of our athletes and their assiduous protestations of innocence in the face of almost ironclad evidence to the contrary. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, all-time major league home run king Barry Bonds and National Football League running back Stanley Wilson are among the most infamous.
The most egregious current examples of trying to lie their way through misconduct are New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun. Rodriguez is the league's highest-paid player, and Braun was the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2011.
I won't go into detail as their offenses and actions are well-publicized and similar. Rodriguez continued to use performance enhancing drugs while serving as a spokesman for the Taylor Hooton Foundation, an anti-steroid organization. Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during his MVP year but, through chicanery, made his denial stick.
Denying and apologizing for wrongdoing has become epidemic among the high-born and, let's face it, celebrities have no monopoly on lying. The most corrupt and disreputable facet is, by far, the subsequent apology and accompanying crocodile tears.
The only genuine sorrow experienced by these cheats is not that they let down their families, friends, colleagues, fans, supporters and perhaps their pets by their actions, but rather that they got caught.
It is indeed a sad state of affairs when one can compromise hisor her integrity, moral character and reputation by deciding that the only offense is getting caught.
Is it any wonder that today's role models are likely as not to have feet of clay?
J. Karl Miller is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.