Trump and his enablers behave like lies don’t matter. They proudly seek to establish a “post-fact” world, lying about crowd sizes, non-existent voter fraud, terrorism, Russian interference in the election, Hillary’s emails and, well, just about everything. And as the lies grow, compound, and become a blur, some may try to minimize lies as harmless or insignificant in the overall scope of the presidency. Indeed, this is essentially Sean Spicer’s job.
But lies matter because lies have consequences; a tragic reminder of which was recently brought to light.
Emmett Till was only fourteen years old when he was murdered.
Originally from Chicago, he was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was snatched from his uncle’s house at three in the morning by two white men, pistol whipped, beaten beyond recognition, shot, tied by his neck with barbed wire to the fan of a cotton gin, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. The men who murdered him were acquitted by an all-white, all male jury in a little over an hour. Unable to be tried again due to double jeopardy, they then proudly admitted to their crime in a magazine interview.
Emmett Till’s mother demanded an open casket at his funeral, so that the world could see what had been done to her son.
The resulting outrage has been called the start of the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, no less than Rosa Parks herself later said that when she did not get up and move to the rear of the bus, “I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn’t go back.”
But what did Emmett Till do that justified his murder in the eyes of his killers and the Southern jury? He allegedly flirted with a white woman at a grocery store while buying candy.
An unspeakably deplorable excuse, to be sure, but even moreso is this: it never happened.
The woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham (the wife of one of Till’s murderers) is still alive and recently admitted to a historian at Duke University that Till did not come on to her. Why she lied, including in court, is not clear. But a lie it was, and one that changed the course of history.
So while Trump lies with seeming impunity, remember we are only three weeks in, with four years to go. Truth matters, and time is on its side.