As children we are taught about the legend of George Washington and the cherry tree. Young George had taken an ax to it and when confronted with the evidence of his actions told his father, "I cannot tell a lie" and professed his guilt.
Yet he and other Founding Fathers thought it prudent to add amendments to the Constitution to give folks the privilege against self incrimination. Faced with daunting evidence of culpability you have a right to keep your mouth shut. George didn't see the need to do this but chose to preserve the option for others. Truth was for others to judge and not for the accused to confess. Telling the truth might make you feel better but certainly is unlikely to set you free.
Is it any wonder then as a society we shun the truth? We expect to be lied to. Children are taught that "little white lies" spare people's feelings; politicians twist and contort the definition of simple words like "is" to escape confessing the obvious and leaders never want to be put in the position of having to disclose the truth if the news is stark.
Which made Governor Paterson's recent confession that the state is broke all the more unexpected. It was like he told the fat lady to stop singing and to go on a diet. We all instinctively knew the state was in poor fiscal shape but nobody wanted to acknowledge it. Like the pink elephant in the room (ok so I'm pushing it with the large analogies) everyone knows he's there but nobody wanted to stare and be rude.
The truth is rude. Its unvarnished and harsh and yes sometimes unpalatable. We have become so sensitive to the idea of sparing feelings that we have spared ourselves the blemishes of honesty. The ugly truth is that our state is on the tip of financial ruin bc we have spent our special interest selves into this current morass. Like the fat lady who's being told to diet, the news is unwelcome and shocking.
Its up to us now to decide what to do with the unflattering truth of our fiscal straits. We can acknowledge the truth and deal with it. Or like the elephant we can pretend the deficit doesn't really exist. Would George have owned up to the current crisis? Or would he have hidden the ax?