Thursday, October 8, 2020

Quote of the Day (V.S. Naipaul, on the Lies ‘We Tell Ourselves’)

"The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves." ―Nobel Literature laureate V.S. Naipaul (1932-2018), In a Free State (1971)

This election, far more than others, involves lies. Many people would argue with Naipaul’s contention in the passage I have just cited, but I think there is a strong element of truth in it.

The lies “we tell ourselves” involve, of course, self-delusion. The insistence with which the current occupant of the Oval Office has lied about the pandemic—that it would all magically disappear with the onset of warm weather, that a vaccine would be available around Election Day, and, most recently, that Americans should not be “dominated” by COVID-19—raises the question of how much he has come to believe his own falsehoods.

Does he speak with so much certainty because he is, at heart, a salesman so caught up in the moment that he can no longer see the truth about his product?

On the other hand, if Americans decide on Election Day that all the crises of the last four years—but especially the last agonizing one—warrant another term in office for the current administration, then I am afraid that we will be the ones lying to ourselves—and at that point, we will have nobody but ourselves to blame as we fall for one more, perhaps fatal, national self-delusion.

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