Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
The exact details of the event are unimportant. I was in the fifth grade — about 11 years old.
When I got home from school one day, my Mom asked me where I had been and what I had been doing. The details of my answer are unimportant. What is important is that I lied to Mom.
Immediately, Mom knew that I was lying. Later, I asked her how she knew, and her answer was cryptic.
“Moms always know the truth… always.” As usual, I got in trouble for the mischief I had been up to, but also, as usual, I got in more trouble for telling a lie.
It dawned on me that day that lying to Mom was just a stupid thing to do. I always got caught.
I realized that moms possess a mysterious power that can strip away the hemming and hawing and get directly to whether an answer is truth or lies. To this day, Mom will not tell me how she always knew. But, she always knew. She was always right. It made me sad that I had put Mom in a position where she could no longer trust me.
The famous German philosopher, Fredrich Nietzsche, is quoted as saying, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
That is a sad statement and that’s the position I put my Mom into. She could no longer trust me.
After the punishment for lying was put behind me (literally and figuratively), I had an important talk with Mom. I promised her, “I’ve got it. I’ll never lie to you again.” She thanked me. We hugged. I meant what I said, and Mom could tell that I meant it.
Years later, I was driving around Germantown in Mom’s car with a couple of my friends. Orv was ready to graduate from high school and was heading to Georgetown, Ky. for college.
We were heading back into Germantown on Lower Miamisburg Road and stopped at a stop sign at Butter Street. In the ditch was a sign that said, “Bridge Out.” Orv thought that would be a great decoration for his dorm room at Georgetown College. So, we stopped, picked it up and put it in the back of the car.
After a few hours, it dawned on us that a road crew might be planning on using that sign in the next few days, so we headed back to Butter Street and put it back where we found it. When we stopped to drop it off, I noticed a car behind us, but didn’t give it much thought.
We then headed over to Orv’s house to hang out in his basement and play some games. It wasn’t long before their phone rang. It was my Mom. She wanted me to come home immediately. There was something in the tone of her message that got me moving.
In nothing flat, I was driving down Maple Street and nearing home. That’s when I saw the police car in front of our house.
I found out that the officer who came to our house had been driving to work when he pulled up behind us at the Butter Street and Lower Miamisburg Road intersection. He saw us put the bridge out sign into the ditch where we found it.
That’s also when I found out that the sign had been stolen from a bridge that was under construction on Manning Road, just north of town. Standing on our front porch, I told the police officer what had happened. We were putting the sign back. We had not stolen it.
Did he believe me? Of course not, but the important thing is that my Mom did.
Mom convinced the officer that I would not lie to her. She stood behind me. She trusted me. With a look of doubt on his face, the officer thanked us and left. I was proud of my Mom. She trusted me.
Benjamin Disraeli, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and a famous British statesman is quoted as saying, “There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies and statistics.”
Over 100 years later, it’s still true. We are often being told lies and damn lies. Are we being blasted with “fake news?” Yes.
Probably to some extent the mainstream media reports are being tilted one way or another, left or right, and are not accurate. However, the information they are receiving from government sources is probably tainted. So, what we read or hear from the media may not be true.
Sadly, much of what is said by our own elected officials is either lies, damn lies or statistics that are bent and twisted beyond all recognition.
Politico, an American journalism company using a fact-check system, measured how many lies President Trump told over the course of 4.5 hours of public speaking. They found that he lied, on average, once every five minutes.
Huffington Post tabulated his lies over the course of one town hall event. They state that he lied 71 times.
Can we believe Politico or Huffington Post? Maybe.
At any rate, I wish our president and other elected leaders would sit with my Mom and just talk with her for a few minutes. Maybe they would realize that the American people, just like my Mom, can tell when we are being told a lie. I was just a kid when Mom taught me a valuable lesson about honesty and trust.
Maybe, just maybe, they would try to regain our trust by telling us the truth. Maybe.
Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and a local resident of more than 40 years.