Yesterday I wrote that love requires that we tell those we love when they’re being lied to. Minutes after posting, I read David French’s Sunday newsletter, which offered a very helpful delineation between the kinds of lies presently seizing our civitas, enabling lies and activating lies.
“The Democrat party systematically attacked the Constitution and our election system” is an activating lie, a made-up charge that someone has done something they haven’t done, a lie which, if believed, calls for a response.
But the activating lie sprouts from the soil of enabling lies. French:
Here’s an enabling lie: America will end if Trump loses. That was the essence of the Flight 93 essay in 2016. That was the core of Eric Metaxas’s argument in our debates this spring and fall.
Here’s another enabling lie: The fate of the church is at stake if Joe Biden wins.
And here’s yet another: The left hates you (this sentence sometimes concludes with the phrase “and wants you dead.”)
I’ll add my own, a meme shared on Facebook by a family member just weeks ago: a picture of Nancy Pelosi covered with the text “100% Pure Evil.”
And what did I do with that meme? I rolled my eyes and shrugged my shoulders but said nothing to the poster. What’s the point? Agree to disagree and all the rest.
We can do more than nothing. We must do more than nothing. Sadly, leaving comments feels like next to nothing. So does pasting links to fact checks. Enabling lies don’t exist because otherwise clear-minded people have weighed the facts and made a mistaken determination. On the left and the right, enabling lies nest in hearts and minds that want them. We participate in our own deception.
Maybe curiosity needs to replace assertion in the fight against the kinds of enabling lies that produced the siege of the Capitol last week. I mean curiosity about the people in our lives who are open to them. We probably all know someone who believes “The left hates you,” so I wonder what might change if we started to inquire, one at a time, “I wonder why you think that?” It’s Pollyanish, I know. It won’t solve the problem by itself. But what we’re doing now sure isn’t working.