Everyone knows the story of the boy who cried wolf. It’s been told and retold a hundred times. The basic story remains the same. A young shepherd amuses himself by riling up the town with false sightings of wolves. When real wolves threaten his flock, no one comes to help the boy. After so many lies, no one trusts him to tell the truth. It’s a story for children, but plenty of adults would do well to revisit the fable.
Our current president lies about so many things that we have no idea when he’s telling the truth. That’s why his current rant about North Korea is so confusing. It’s hard to know if his threats of “fire and fury” reflect actual policy, or if this is just more bluster from a man who fabricates phone calls from Boy Scout leaders. Journalists and pundits have spent the past day parsing the president’s words and examining his body language. Should we be bracing for nuclear war? Or is this just an exaggeration along the lines of those crowd size numbers he can’t stop inflating? Who knows!
It’s no big secret that all politicians lie, but this president is different. He lies to amuse himself and to feel important. He lies for no reason at all. When he pounds his fist and makes threats, we don’t know whether to believe him or ignore him. Every day a new poll comes out showing the ratings-obsessed president’s ratings inching lower. His credibility is terrible. Even many of his supporters say they don’t believe him when he speaks. His staffers try to convince us to stop taking his words literally. We need to learn to take a joke, they tell us. The problem, of course, is that none of this is funny. An American president can’t bluster and lie about nuclear war. We’ve been here before. We know what happens next. We understand the consequences.
I don’t believe the president means what he says about North Korea. I’m not saying he wouldn’t declare war in a fit of pique; I absolutely think he’s capable of that. In this case, however, I believe the president is merely trying to match the rhetoric of Kim Jong-un. He doesn’t want to be out-blustered by a wolf-crier from across the ocean. It’s a sad day when the American president is scrambling to match wits with the leader of North Korea. These men with incredibly fragile egos hold too much power in the world. We know that Kim Jong-un will kill anyone who threatens his supremacy and our president is so insecure that he requires twice daily briefings to reaffirm his awesomeness. Neither of these men should be playing with guns or with bombs. They should not be tending the flocks. Frankly, both men could use a time out.
I just hope we’re able to recognize the moment when the lies become truth. With any luck, it won’t be too late to save us all.