top of page

Pity the Nation-1: Out on a Limb: Of Cherry Trees & Presidents & Pinocchio’s

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Reading time: 15 minutes

(Originally sent as an email on 2/18/20)

EVENT (now passed): Van Jones from CNN @ Adelphi University, Garden City, NY 11530 Thurs. Feb. 20 7-8 pm

--Join Van Jones for this talk as he unpacks details of presidential politics, campaigns and one of the most consequential elections in our nation’s history.

I cannot tell a lie... I had promised you all that by now I’d have my website operational so I wouldn’t have to clog up your Inbox with yet another email… Wait, it’s no longer Presidents’ Day...can I interest you in some alternative facts or a funny Tweet and so distract you from the truth about why the site isn’t ready? No...I’m not running for office in 2020.

Today, I’m connecting Presidents’ Day and a 2007 poem my friend Richie sent me a few months ago entitled “Pity the Nation Whose Leaders are Liars” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Since receiving it, I’ve written over 50 pages as I’ve applied its message to the deceptions of leaders of our church, state and business institutions. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be parsing this research into separate articles.

Britannica article says, “No!” Apparently, one of George’s first biographers, a clergyman and an itinerant book agent, added some of his own morality to the facts and the legend was born.

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

--from the above article

A Spoonful of Sugar (humor) Helps the Medicine (truth) Go Down

Before getting into the current political environment’s disturbing distortion of facts, here are some of my favorite movies about this topic:

The Invention of Lying – Movie Trailer (0:02:17)

Liar, Liar – Movie Trailer (0:02:13)

And now for the news…

What lessons is this period in history teaching our children???

We all have biases

“We see things as WE are and not as THEY are.”

-Anaïs Nin

I am writing this from my way of looking at reality (aka, with a bias). You are reading it with your own. If we try to keep open minds, we can both learn from each other even if we disagree. For more about how our perceptions affect our reality, please refer to “The Truth Will Not Set You Free” at end of this article.

Science says that we each have our own confirmation biases. In essence, in most cases where we’re presented with opinions that differ from our own, we’ve already made up our minds beforehand about what we’ll believe.

“A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

After adding the above quote, I went online to see if anyone had made a meme of our current president as a boxer. WOW! I was amazed (but not surprised) that he had made one of himself last year. Hey, you can’t make/fake this stuff up OR can you?

Can’t Make This Up Dept.

Just before I sent this email, I added a link to S&G’s “The Boxer.” I had Autoplay set to ON and guess what song YouTube recommended and played next?

  • Teach Your Children” (0:02:25) How well this answers the previous question about what our politics are teaching our children – “You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by…”

Two biases that restrict our ability to process information

Confirmation bias - the tendency to only accept information that supports our personal beliefs (sounds a lot nicer than prejudice)

Negativity bias - Our brains are wired to respond quickly to fear and slower to positive stimuli. Politicians and advertisers use this to their advantage and our disadvantage.

See the end of this article for more info on these two perception-altering tendencies.

What a field day for the heat

A thousand people in the street

Singing songs and carrying signs

Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

--For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

Pity the Nation...


– Lawrence Ferlinghetti (after Khalil Gibran) 2007

Pity the nation whose people are sheep

And whose shepherds mislead them

Pity the nation whose leaders are liars

Whose sages are silenced

And whose bigots haunt the airwaves

Pity the nation that raises not its voice

Except to praise conquerors

And acclaim the bully as hero

And aims to rule the world

By force and by torture

Pity the nation that knows

No other language but its own

And no other culture but its own

Pity the nation whose breath is money

And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed

Pity the nation oh pity the people

who allow their rights to erode

and their freedoms to be washed away

My country, tears of thee

Sweet land of liberty!”

--Street art of Lady Liberty I snapped while walking with a friend on NYC’s Highline Trail.

“My country, tears of thee…”

“Know the truth and the truth will set you free”


“What is truth?”

--Pilate (and too many others since)

…and if you don’t, Google, Twitter, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and late night TV hosts will update your karma dis-credit scorecard. Took the following on a recent trip into the city:

P.S. I don’t think the ad agency actually understands that you want to reduce karma rather than increase it. Two thoughts:

1. What if burning karma was as easy as burning credit card statements, bras, draft cards, and other assorted current and former signs of the establishment?

2. Actually, credit card debt caused by excessive attachment is a major cause of added karma – so, the ad agency unknowingly got it right.

A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Thousand Words…OK, maybe 900…How about 800?

Ratings from one…

In 2011, The Washington Post made its Fact Checker feature, which debuted in the 2008 Presidential elections, a permanent feature. “The purpose of this website, and an accompanying column in the Sunday print edition of The Washington Post, is to ‘truth squad’ the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local. It’s a big world out there, and so we rely on readers to ask questions and point out statements that need to be checked.

But we are not limited to political charges or counter-charges. We also seek to explain difficult issues, provide missing context and provide analysis and explanation of various ‘code words’ used by politicians, diplomats and others to obscure or shade the truth. The Fact Checker is at heart about policy -- domestic and foreign -- as we have found that politicians are apt to be more misleading about complex and difficult-to-understand topics.” You can read more about its mission and methods here.

--a new rating for a false claim repeated over and over again

All of Donald Trump’s Four-Pinocchio ratings, in one place (updated as of Nov. 2016 as there weren’t enough terror-bytes of storage to make a current one)

“There’s never been a presidential candidate like Donald Trump — someone so cavalier about the facts and so unwilling to ever admit error, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. As of Nov. 3, (2016) about 64 percent (59 of 92) of our rulings of his statements turned out to be Four Pinocchio’s, our worst rating. By contrast, most politicians tend to earn Four Pinocchio’s 10 to 20 percent of the time. (Moreover, most of the remaining ratings for Trump are Three Pinocchio’s.)”

“It’s such a Paine in the neck to listen to others’ Common Sense, so I’ll just continue saying and doing whatever I please.”

A jury of my peers (i.e., cronies)…

Ah, as luck (and a few called-in favors) would have it, such a jury was found/purchased…

--from Feb. 2, 2020 issue of the Herald - a local newspaper

Hey, I thought elephants were supposed to have good memories…

P.S. A majority doesn’t make it true…

--from my local edition of the Herald. I subscribe because they present articles from both sides of the aisle. By sitting with opinions other than my own versions of reality, I try to stay open to how others see their versions of reality.

--A pre-impeachment summary of events for those who didn’t waste a lot of time on this soap opera that continues to embarrass us at home and abroad.

How about 500 words and I’ll throw in a pound of freshly picked cherries?

Fallacies in one room (Oval Office) can lead to Phallacies (1) in other rooms…

Recalls Dylan’s words from "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" (0:06:13):

“But even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.”

(1) Once again I thought I’d made up a new word – phallacy – but Guru Google proved me wrong.

Once again for emphasis…

Progress not perfection


Confirmation bias – notice it to avoid fooling yourself

“Only if you are truly open to the possibility of being wrong can you ever learn, says researcher Alex Edmans. In an insightful talk, he explores how confirmation bias -- the tendency to only accept information that supports your personal beliefs -- can lead you astray on social media, in politics and beyond, and offers three practical tools for finding evidence you can actually trust. (Hint: appoint someone to be the devil's advocate in your life.)”

My add: It can help you if you select as a devil’s advocate someone who doesn’t share your viewpoint.


--good explanation that includes the science behind this process

Negativity bias - Our brains are wired to respond quickly to fear and slower to positive stimuli.

“the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones”

Negativity bias and confirmation bias feed each other. When we REACT instead of RESPOND - “We update these appraisals [of real or imagined threats] with information that confirms them; we ignore, devalue, or alter information that doesn’t.”

Point…Counterpoint…………………Stay Open…

“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”

“Abraham Maslow is an American born psychologist whose theory posits that we are all driven by needs, the utmost of which is self-actualization. However, most people settle for the comfort of the lower needs, and do not work toward or self-actualize (see my post, ‘The Psychopathology of Normal’). People who are self-actualizing (which is a process, something one works towards and never completely attains) embrace the B-Values (including: truth, goodness, autonomy, and simplicity). Self-actualizers also exhibit behaviors that embody being better individuals. What follows (in the article) is how those behaviors relate to the nation’s current political climate.”

Humee Hum - The Other Is You – Mirabai Ceiba (0:12:03)

--I always felt an attraction to this Kundalini yoga mantra. One day, during a period when I was having a stressful and ongoing conflict with someone, I felt a particularly strong attraction and decided to find out what it meant. WOW! The following article unpacked why I was being drawn to its message. I was being invited to see and so love the other person as me.

“Loving my neighbor as myself…”

Recognize the Other Person is You: Mantra, Music, Meditation & Global Sadhana

Two traditions…one message…

  • Jesus said this was part of the greatest commandment.

  • Yogi Bhajan called it the first sutra of the Aquarian age.

Ends & Odds

This song title caught my attention

I Can’t Tell a Lie - Fred Astaire (from Holiday Inn) (0:02:40)

What might these three variations on a very old carol have to do with this discussion about lying? For starters, they are about the person who said that he was “the way, the truth and the life.”

The Cherry Tree Carol – Judy Collins (0:05:23)

The Cherry Tree Carol – Joan Baez 0:03:31)

The Cherry Tree Carol – Sting (0:03:26)

Except for its title, this classic Motown song is a non-sequitur.

I Can’t Tell a Lie – The Gaslight (0:03:41)


bottom of page