Rattlesnakes and politicians

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

At some point in everyone’s life, they have told a lie.

Some people lie so much it becomes expected. Sometimes, because they lie so much, it becomes hard to know if they ever tell the truth.

You always expect a lie. They may try to justify their lying by saying it was just a little-white-lie, or they were telling a tall-tale. They call it a fib, not a lie. Fibbing must be OK to them.

It makes no difference what you call it… a lie is a lie. At some point, people will stop believing what they hear. Some people may choose to believe a lie because they prefer the lie over the truth.

Like many young school-aged children, I used to lie to my Mom all the time. I would lie when the truth would have served me just as well.

One afternoon, I did not go straight home from school. I didn’t take a shortcut. I took a longcut. Rather than staying on the streets and sidewalks, I took an adventure hike through Camp Miami. It took a little bit longer, but I had the pleasure of walking through the woods and enjoying some trails and dirt paths.

When I got home, Mom asked about my day at school; did I learn anything, did I have fun, did you come straight home from school? I answered, “Yes” to all of Mom’s questions. Again, she asked if I came straight home after school. Again, I answered, “Yes.”

I’m not sure how she knew, but Mom knew I was lying. I was busted. The next thing I knew, I was grounded for a week – not because I had hiked home through Camp Miami, but simply because I had lied.

“If you don’t stop lying to me, I will never be able to trust you.”

Notice – Mom did not say that she would not be able to believe me. She said, “I’ll never be able to trust you.”

That really hit a cord with me. I cried and told Mom that I was sorry and that I would never lie to her again. I kept that promise.

As a youngster, I always looked forward to going to church camp. Our minister was raised in West Virginia and loved that little slice of heaven. Every summer, we piled into an old church bus and headed for the hills. It was beautiful.

One summer afternoon at camp, we were playing softball in a nearby field. I was playing left field. While chasing a foul ball, I jumped over a rolled up section of chained link fencing.

Suddenly, I heard a distinct rattling sound. I had never heard a rattlesnake before, but there was no doubt in my mind about what I had just heard.

I called one of the adults over. We stood there listening… nothing. He was just about to give up on me and walk away, but before leaving, he kicked the roll of fencing. Rattle, rattle, rattle. He held up his arms to keep me from getting any closer.

“Stay back,” he said. “Don’t let anyone come close.” Too late for that. I started yelling, “Snake, snake!”

Kids came running from all over to see what we had found. Other adults kept us a safe distance from the roll of fence. Occasionally, an adult would hit the fence with a stick to see if the snake was still there. It never disappointed us. Rattle, rattle, rattle. He didn’t go away.

An employee of the camp went to the office and came back with a shotgun. I was surprised to see a shotgun at church camp, but it was West Virginia. Both rattlesnakes and shotguns were fairly common.

A couple of brave adults pulled the roll of fencing onto the softball field. It rattled and rattled the whole way. They started unrolling the fence. About a third of the way through the unrolling, the rattlesnake stuck his head up and looked around. The employee with the shotgun made short work of that rattlesnake.

We had trusted his rattle. We trusted that, if left alone near the softball field, that snake could present a deadly problem. We trusted that the snake wasn’t lying. Sometimes, I wish that politicians had rattlers.

Most people don’t realize that, years ago, our courts decided that a politician is allowed to lie during a campaign. When you see a campaign ad that sounds like a bald-faced lie, it may well be a bald-faced lie. Federal courts have decided that politicians are allowed to lie during a campaign. They can’t be sued for libel or slander. As long as it is part of their political campaign, they can lie to their hearts content.

There’s nothing we can do about it. That is a shame. It’s shameful. They should be ashamed, but they continue doing it.

How is a voting citizen supposed to know who is telling the truth? How do we know who to trust?

We simply can’t. I listen to all their advertisements. I read newspapers and magazines. I listen to all the opinions expressed on radio and television.

Then I pray a lot and make the best decision I can.

I wish my Mom was still around. She would tell me who I could really trust.

Somehow, Mom just knew.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.


Randy Riley

Contributing columnist