Skip to content

New Americans – living in the land of truth

April 27, 2017

Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery – Pieter Breugel

It’s comforting to know that the spirit of America’s first president – the man who couldn’t tell a lie – still pervades the highest echelons of the nation’s government.

George Washington would have been proud of the Justice Department official who stood up in front of the Supreme Court and told the Chief Justice about the importance of truth-telling in American life. The New York Times reports the conversation thus:

“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught.

The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest.

“If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all’?” Chief Justice Roberts asked.

Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. “Oh, come on,” he said.

The chief justice asked again whether someone’s citizenship could turn on such an omission.

Mr. Parker did not back down. “If we can prove that you deliberately lied in answering that question, then yes,” he said.

The argument was made to justify the stripping of a woman’s citizenship because she lied in her naturalization papers about a detail in her husband’s past that she felt was immaterial. The full story is here.

Jimmy Carter was another serial truth teller. It’s a good job the American people didn’t reject him when he confessed to having committed adultery “in my mind”. Perhaps the electorate – or at least the righteous among them – were mindful of Jesus’s words to the religious leaders who wished to put an adulteress to death: let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

It’s also comforting that America has in the White House a Superman who believes in Truth, Justice and the American Way. I’m sure that the vast majority of naturalized citizens also believe in Superman’s mantra, even those who failed to confess on their forms to a speeding offence or to dropping a cigarette butt in the street.

I would argue that people who apply for US citizenship deserve a break if they lie on their application forms, on the basis that until they become citizens they cannot fully absorb the American Way, with all that truth and justice stuff.

OK, they’d be a bit naughty if they didn’t admit to being a terrorist, a drug smuggler or a member of an international money-laundering gang.

But is it not excusable that they might tell a fib or too, given that most of them come from countries where lying is part of daily life, whose leaders routinely tell untruths (or alternative truths) about everything under the sun? How can they expect to live up to George Washington’s lofty ethos on Day One? They need educating, right?

Once they get used to living as citizens in a country whose politicians abase themselves for the slightest factual inaccuracy, where drunk drivers routinely line up at police stations to confess their intoxication, where people cheat on their spouses and immediately grovel for forgiveness, where murderers turn themselves in and tax evaders report themselves to the Internal Revenue Service, where nobody lies about their age, their wealth or their sexual potency, the new Americans will surely get the hang of the American way, will they not?

All of which reminds me that in the unlikely event that I should be considered eligible for US citizenship, I wouldn’t think of applying. I have too many guilty little secrets, and besides, I come from a country that is Sodom and Gomorrah to America’s virtuous Jerusalem.

Living up to America’s values would be utterly beyond me. And as it happens, I quite like the mendacious swamp I live in right now.

From → Politics, Social, USA

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: