Sunday, April 06, 2008

Keeping Secrets

Of all the major philosophers studied today in colleges, Immanuel Kant has to be the toughest on lying. I mean, there isn't any tougher position than forbidding someone to lie to a murderer about the whereabouts of the intended victim. His arguments apply equally well to any sort of deceptive action. Anytime I am trying to get you to form a false belief, I am lying. What some readers do not notice is that Kant does not require you to speak. The requirement is not that you tell the truth, but that you not lie.

Mark Twain is claimed to have said that he does not lie because his memory isn't good enough. It makes sense. If you tell the truth then you only have to remember one set of facts. Liars have to keep multiple versions of the truth in their heads and remember what they told to whom. Maybe that is why some of the most deceitful people seem to believe their lies -- there is only enough memory space for one version.

I am re-learning what I learned during the time when Carl didn't want me to tell people he was gay, when I was in the parents' closet: it is difficult to make conversation when you cannot speak about what is on your mind. Silence is easier.

When I went through that time, which I have written about before, I found that retreated into silence. It is difficult having something on your mind and not being able to talk about it. The more that thing occupies your thoughts, the more difficult it is.

It is not just NOT saying the thing that can't be said, it is trying to figure out what to say in its place. One feels inauthentic. An actor. Pretending.

How could anyone think that "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" could ever work?


  1. This sums up why I have been so quiet lately. Interesting.

  2. It sounds very much like Kant was about the letter of the law, instead of the spirit. You can lie easily by being quiet.
    It is amazing what we end up doing for our families, isn't it?

  3. Ummm....hoping I won't be banned, but I beg to differ.

    In fact, I believe "don't ask, don't tell" is in fact, a very prudent philosphy. Not just in relation to sexual orientation, but as to most of the details in life.

    We, as Americans, as "modern, industrialized citizen", have gotten nosy to the point of intrusion.

    How many times have I walked through a public arena (football game at the high school, volunteering in the school, shopping in the mall, hair appts) and been "quizzed", no, make that "Interrogated" on the status and origin of my family? Perfect strangers feel the need, and the right, to inquire into my every detail- why is Child A's head lopsided? What did you do to him? Why isn't Child B talking clearly? What's wrong with her?
    Why is that one wearing that?

    Where's their real mom/dad? What happened to them? Were they abused (IN THE PRESENCE OF MY KIDS WE WERE ASKED THIS REPEATEDLY!!!)

    For some reason, every detail of human lives has become public knowledge.

    The creation of the internet, of global media, of paparrazzi, has perpetuated this problem, yes. People feel that public records, such as criminal, traffic, bankruptcies, domestic violence incidents, all are apparently relevant.

    Why? At what point did we stop trusting people? At what point did we decide that we could only befriend/work with/associate with/live next door, to perfect people? Why must we know and then judge every last detail of people's lives in order to determine their worth?

    I personally wish don't ask don't tell were public policy.

    Don't ask me how my family came to be, and I won't volunteer details that will make your skin cringe and your stomach roll and your very sensibilities wither up and cry.

    Don't ask my friend why he lives with another man, and he won't volunteer the years of abuse that he suffered at the hands of an emotionally and physically abusive mother, that completely disabled him from receiving positive affection from a woman.

    Don't ask why my dog limps and barks at men, and I won't tell you about the way she was lit on fire, of being tossed into a garbage bag and hit with a tennis ball in a sock, until being rescued and then placed with us.

    Don't ask, and I won't tell. It truly is no one's business.

    If my friend, or child, wants to volunteer information, to seek comfort or advice from me, to vent her frustration at a situation or circumstance, I'm here.

    But I'm also here if she tells me nothing other than her heart is sad, or she needs extra consideration for some area, or if she needs distraction.

    I don't have or need to know why, to be able to love. I just wish the rest of the world could try it.

    For the record, since I have no idea what you're talking about, I can't make sure my topic didn't wander off from the intent of yours.

    I just think of the lies I've been put in a position to tell, to protect the identities or self-esteem of my children, and resent the fact that so many people put me in the position of having to do so.

    Then somebody tipped me off to silence- it's Biblical (which fits with my lifechoices), it's simple (I, like Mark Twain, don't have the memory needed to deceive successfully), and often, the only answer that will suffice.

    Having worked in Human Resources for years before marriage and family, I often wondered what would happen if we eliminated the Equal Opportunities Employer Surveys, and simply conducted job interviews like the Pepsi/Coke taste tests- blindly.

    Have applicants be interviewed over the phone, or behind a screen. Have the interviewer wear a blindfold, heck, I don't care.

    As long as there are differences made in the legal system for different races, genders, sex orientations, etc, we will continue to have widespread discrimination, as each culture group (straight white male protecting his own philosophy, African American "brotherhood" protecting each other, etc).

    People should have the right to privacy and if we lived in a more discreet world, a lot of issues (hate crimes, discrimination, etc) could probably be avoided, IMO.

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