A lie can't run far, because it has short legs, or so they say.
But some lies travel very far indeed, because we carry them.
Like most of the world, my wife and I have a Facebook account. We have friends, we follow the activities of some organizations, and some musicians (hooray for Bon Jovi and AC/DC!).
And, more and more often, we see the dark underbelly of the beast.
Many of our friends subscribe to "informational services", like I may look stupid but at least I'm having fun. These entities, whatever they really are and whoever is really behind them, offer canned messages that a subscriber can try on for fit, like clothes, sometimes sensible, sometimes outlandish. Finding a comfortable match, they can post these missives to their 'pages', to say concisely what they themselves might struggle to say, and what they themselves might never think of saying.
Sometimes funny, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes emotionally arresting.
And sometimes, just plain wrong.
"In March 2013 all US citizens will be required to have a microchip implanted that will carry all personal information, all medical information, and all banking information." This, accompanied by a plausible picture of a skeletal x-rayed hand, with a tiny cylindrical object, ominously placed.
"Starbucks refuses to send coffee to Marines fighting in Afghanistan, because Starbucks is against the war...please boycott them." Along with a slightly fuzzy scan of a letter purporting to be from a Recon Marine, confirming this cruel corporate statement.
It took me all of ten seconds to find out that both were simply not true. You're not going to be microchipped, and the picture shows a blood-glucose monitor for diabetics.
Starbucks supports the war, and supports our troops. Their corporate bylaws prohibit coffee donations to any but a few organizations, but they encourage their own employees, who receive a monthly allotment of free coffee, to make donations on their own
The truth is easy to find, but the truth doesn't matter, because it's more fun to believe the lie. We can find any conspiracy theory we like, and trumpet it abroad, accountable to no one save ourselves, and a conscience crippled by the ability to hide in plain sight, anonymous in the Global Village of bits and bytes and download speed.
The saddest thing of all is that many of these people are doing what they think is right, as an example of their faith...Christianity in action.
How did we get here?
Doesn't matter. We are here. Wandering together through a house of mirrors that show our most cherished fears, hidden in smoke that hides our base meanness that wishes only to lash out and hurt them. Someone.
As a society, there probably isn't much we can do. The genie is out of the bottle, and he's hopelessly blurred the line between the real world and its distorted reflection. Short of worldwide censorship, we'll never go back.
We can; however, save our own souls. We can choose to say what we mean, what we hope, and what we fear, in our own words and not in digital postcards borrowed from someone we'll never meet.
We can choose to research what we say.
We can choose to say "yes" when we mean yes, and to say "no" when we mean no.
The world may rush on to its digital abyss, in which all will be fiction, controlled from an apartment in Peoria, from an office in Murmansk, but we can step out of the stream.
And stand on the shore with Truth, and Decency, and Fair Play.
It's only from shore that we can effectively throw out a lifeline.
And with Jesus helping us pull, who's to say whom might be saved?