“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love,” says Father Zosima in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.”
In the wake of the Kavanaugh hearing, I’ve found it hard to have anything to say at all. There is nothing fruitful in contributing to the noise about who is lying or whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed. In a situation where the truth may never actually be known, and the web of lies is woven so thick that we cannot unravel it, maybe our conclusion should not be an opinion we have decided to believe. Perhaps all we can take for certain from the Kavanaugh hearing is something that we already knew, but perhaps forgot: the simple truth that lying is evil.
In each iteration of how the situation could have gone, we are left with the conclusion that someone must be lying. Christine Blasey Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted sexual assault. Did Kavanaugh assault Ford, and are he and Mark Judge, an alleged witness to the crime, lying? Is Ford lying about the assault occurring? Is it true Ford was assaulted, but the trauma and years since the incident make her claim that she is “100 percent sure” it was Kavanaugh not completely true? Are Ford’s named witnesses, who have defended Kavanaugh, lying for him?
Some of these questions are easier to propose answers to, but the sheer variety of theories provided to each suggest that no one is willing to come to a common conclusion. Someone is lying, but no one can agree who it is.
What we may notice most of all is how neatly the opinion of who has lied falls across party lines. We may be sickened by the dishonesty on both aisles of the Senate floor or the media outlets who cannot agree on the “facts,” but we also must be cautious of the lies we tell ourselves. Do we tell ourselves that Kavanaugh is guilty to justify a Democrat taking his seat? Do we tell ourselves that Ford is lying to support a Republican confirmation? Hopefully the answer is no. But we should at least be honest with ourselves.
“Above all, do not lie to yourself,” says Dostoevsky. All we can learn from this sickening mess is the simple lesson not to lie. A lie has the potential to ruin an innocent man’s reputation and harm his family, or the potential to let a man receive great power despite doing an unspeakable evil to an innocent woman. And it has the potential, as Dostoevsky says, to make one unable to find the truth in oneself or in the world.
That last consequence is not restricted to those among Ford, Kavanaugh, the Senate, and the media who may be lying. It applies to all of us, all the time, when we refuse to seek the truth.
“And having no respect he ceases to love,” Dostoevsky concludes. What an awful fate that is. If we ought to agree on anything as we move forward, it is this: what a horrible thing it is to lie.
Haley Hauprich is a senior studying English.