Among the shows I used to watch as a child was Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. In every episode, Fred Rogers would whisk his viewers away to “the land of make believe.” It has been quite some time since any reader of this column has been a child. However, insofar as we involve ourselves in any capacity in politics, we continue to visit a land of make believe.
Given that it consists largely of myths, it should come as no surprise to hear that the world of politics is as close to a land of make believe as any adult is going to visit. In the popular imagination, it is a truism that politicians are liars. Certainly there are politicians who fit this description; but I don’t think politicians are more prone than anyone else to lie. Politics is for the most part like play, an activity during which truth is suspended. Perhaps many Americans are aware of this, and it is this insight, infrequently unconscious though it is, that accounts for why politics has acquired the less than flattering reputation that it has. But if play precludes the category of truth, it precludes as well that of falsity. That is to say, although politicians may not speak the literal truth, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are lying.