The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. - President James A. Garfield
The truth is rarely pure and never simple. - Oscar Wilde
I retired the #1206 “fiction” series for a variety of reasons as explained in When Avoidance Produces the Unavoidable but after over 12,000 emails (I stopped counting) telling me I had made a mistake in doing so, I present its return. I am grateful for your interest in this series.
Slate Lick, Pennsylvania – Spring 1995
As the sun set in the hills northeast of Pittsburgh, two men sat in silence as they looked through the windows at the darkening valley below them. The younger of the two wondered what personal contributions to society lay before him. The older of the two, a Colonel in the USAF, decorated World War II hero and black project participant for years at Wright-Patterson AFB, wondered if his contributions had been the right ones.
A single light above the small table between them illuminated a lone bottle of Scotch and two glasses.
I had been pressing Robert to tell me stories of the projects he had worked on at Wright-Patt over the years. As the amount of Scotch in the bottle got lower, many years of a career lived in secret had finally reached their limit and the stories flowed easily and freely.
As the enormity of his stories sank in, I asked how this could be happening right under our noses with nobody doing anything about it.
“Kee-rist”, Robert exclaimed angrily, “Do you really think it is that easy?”
“So what’s really going on?”, I asked him, wanting to know more and not at the same time.
Robert paused for a moment and refilled his glass. “Before I tell you”, he said quietly, “Many times we ask questions that, had we known better, we would never have asked. I’m not a religious man myself but when I first got involved with my work, a senior officer told me to go read Amos 5:19 in the Bible before I got involved. He told me that I should read it before joining the project and then tell him whether I was still in or not. I never did look it up but wonder if I should have.”
He cleared his throat, his clear blue eyes watered slightly as the memories of his Life passed through his mind and he stared off into the darkening world outside.
“I’m going to tell you a story”, he said quietly.
In a small bar not far from Capitol Hill, the President, the Vice President, members of the Congress and the Senate and members of the military clinked glasses and celebrated another victory – a victory of legislation but more importantly a victory of forming popular opinion instead of bowing to it. It was a who’s who of power on both sides of the political equation in America.
“Just think”, said the President. “If the people only knew that after a day of tearing each other apart, that we always retreat to this place and celebrate our long term plans that knows no party bias”.
“And what if someone ever found out the truth?”, asked a brash young officer.
“Will never happen”, smiled the President. He confidently raised his glass high. “A toast to truth”, he exclaimed and laughter filled the room.
“Stupid fools”, muttered the CIA official, watching on a monitor as the Nation’s leaders cavorted and toasted each other’s superior intellect.
“Maybe so”, replied his FBI colleague, “but their stupidity serves us well.”
“I hope you’re right”, said a third man watching the monitors. “The NSA has a lot riding on getting this right. If we make a mistake, the whole works falls like a house of cards and we’re left holding the bag and having to explain the truth to the people”.
The FSB and SVR officials sat quietly and observed the conversation amongst their American counterparts.
The CIA official turned away from the monitor and smiled. “You guys never lighten up, do you? Even if it all hits the fan, which it won’t, nobody would even know what truth is anymore. Everything is working better than even we have foreseen. I don’t know about you but I never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
He reached for a bottle on the table in front of him and poured himself and his colleagues a shot. As each of them leaned forward and took a glass, he lifted his high and said “A toast to truth!”.
“Truth”, replied his colleagues as they clinked glasses.
The FSB and SVR representatives hesitated for a moment, smiled at each other and raised their glasses also. “Pravdah”, they said in unison.
The 3-D image of the men clinking their glasses in celebration floated in the air between the silent observers.
“They toast truth when in fact it is merely their own perception of truth”, stated one of the observers.
“Maybe so”, replied one of his colleagues, “But we all have to have something to believe in, do we not? It is especially important when things are difficult. It is in the darkest hour that truths stand most stark and naked, to be viewed in their purity or their evil.”
“True”, nodded his companion. He hesitated a moment and then a glass materialized before him. He reached up, took it and raised it. As he smiled, he said “I would also like to offer a toast to truth”.
“To truth”, came the reply.
“Do you understand what the story means?”, asked Robert.
“I’m not sure”, I replied.
“You will. I’m going to bed. Alarms are on and the perimeter is secure. G’night.”, he said as he stood up and walked off into the darkness.
It was a few years later before I remembered to look up Amos 5:19.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.
To be continued.
© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved
This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.
While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)
This “fictional” musing is continued from ……
When Avoidance Produces The Unavoidable – September 26, 2013
By Way of Deception, Thou Shalt Do War – August 30, 2013
Serving Two Masters – August 22, 2013
Growing the Rot From Within – August 6, 2013
The Coming Storm – June 8, 2013
The Master of Distraction – May 15, 2013
Living on the Edge – How Close Do You Dare? - March 29, 2013
Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One - November 29, 2012)
Divide and Conquer - August 5, 2012
Financial Crisis – March 11, 2008
There is benefit to reading those first (oldest to newest) but it is not required.