|National Defense Service Medal,|
awarded for serving for a relatively
brief time in America's military.
|Republic of Vietnam|
awarded by South
Vietnam to virtually
every foreign service
member who served
in their behalf.
|Vietnam Service Medal,|
awarded for in-country
service during arbitrary
periods set by the military.
I got five of these.
What if I tell you that I was awarded the Silver Star, America's third-highest decoration for valor on the battlefield? This, too, would be a lie, but what if I did? And what if that statement was never challenged, and one day I decided to run for public office? Nothing big, just a City Council seat, or a small-town sheriff? And what if I defeated a better-qualified candidate based on the perception that the winner of a Silver Star was willing to offer up his life for the principles he believes in, thus demonstrating the highest possible integrity? Of course, the "integrity" part is somewhat offset by the hidden fact that I never got a Silver Star... Are you harmed now? Is there a difference?
I think there is. Whether you do depends on whether you think you were harmed in the first example, but in the second, I think we can all agree that everyone lost out at the very least by voting in an inferior official to perform a public function, and that brings me to my point.
Here in America, and throughout most of the world, we have laws to protect us. Granted, they don't always function as designed, but they exist. You are not allowed to murder me, cut off my nose, steal my video games, spread pernicious lies about me, or even put a ding in my car and walk away scott-free. These things "harm" me, and are not allowed. It was briefly, as delineated by the Stolen Valor Act of 2006, illegal to claim to have won military awards that you hadn't, which served to protect communities from events like that in the second example, though that was hardly its only purpose. But now...
A member of the Water Board in a California town was recently convicted under the Act for claiming that he was a former Marine who had won the Medal of Honor (Come on, stupid, claim one that's not so easy to check!). He was sentenced to several hundred hours of community service in a Veteran's hospital, and a fine of a couple of grand. He'll probably have a tough time being reelected to the Water Board again as well, and I say, good on you, mate! However, this being California, he challenged the constitutionality of this law, which he claims infringes on his right to free speech. The local court ruled in his favor, and now the Supreme Court is going to rule on it.
The sad fact is that we all lie. We call in sick when we want to go fishing. We tell that girl we're trying to impress that we were in a Special Forces unit when in reality, we loaded trucks 1,000 miles from the war. We tell our wives they look good in those pants. The argument is that if you're going to make telling one lie a crime, then they all have to be. My first thought is that we'd better start building more jails, but wait a minute. Aren't there already some lies that are legislated against? Didn't Bernie Maidhoff and the Enron crowd go down for lying to investors about expected profits? Or was it perjury, because they put it in writing, or something? I don't know, but ultimately, didn't these people lie to get money that they weren't otherwise entitled to? Isn't that why they're in prison today? Isn't a job on the Water Board, with its attendant salary and benefits, money that guy wasn't entitled to? What do you think?
Come on, folks, talk to me... Is anybody out there?