“Truth Will Out”
There’s every reason to assume that our President has never read or seen the movie of William Shakespeare’s complex and controversial comedy, “The Merchant of Venice.” Although, if he thought the Venice was in Florida, he might try to con the “Merchant” into a deal to put his name on a glitzy condo on the beach. In that case, my bet would be on Shylock, the crafty, hair-splitting deal-maker in the play.
Joking aside, it’s disappointing to see members of the Senate who, whether they know the play or not, know the truth of Shakespeare’s words but have chosen to deny that truth out of fear or for partisan loyalty. In that case, I’d bet on McConnell over Shylock.
In the play, Launcelot is wrestling with his conscience and his mistaken identity with his blind father when he says:
Well, old man, I will tell you news of
your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son
may, but at the length truth will out. (Act II, Scene 2)
“Truth will out” is an odd phrase grammatically, with “truth” as the subject and “out” as an active verb. But the point is clear. Truth has its own, relentless power to reveal itself. It may be hidden in deception and deceit for a time, the immediate effects may be costly along the way, but sooner or later, “at the length truth will out.” It’s a lesson that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton learned the hard way, leading to Nixon’s resignation and Clinton’s public confession.
Shakespeare knew his bible. Perhaps he believed the truth in Jesus’ warning:
“Therefore, don’t be afraid of those people because nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed, and nothing secret that won’t be brought out into the open.” (Matthew 10:26)
“The Present Crisis”
As I watched the debate in the Senate which culminated in a vote to refuse to listen to eye witnesses who were “In the Room Where It Happened,” I’ve been haunted by words from James Russell Lowell. The Harvard professor and abolitionist wrote “The Present Crisis” in 1845, sixteen years before Fort Sumter and the war in which three of his family members died. I learned verses of it in the hymn I’ve mentioned before, “Once to Every Man and Nation.”
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight;
And the choice goes by forever,
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just ;
Then it is the brave man chooses,
While the coward stands a side,
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis Truth alone is strong.
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above his own. Amen.
Lowell offers a stern reminder to our Senators in this “present crisis” that our decisions matter. But he also proclaims a word of hope. Whatever happens in this present moment, we live with the bold assurance that “Truth alone is strong.” At the length, and in spite of the cost along the way, “Truth will out.”
Grace and peace,