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Notre Dame

Lessons from Judas Iscariot: Politicians, Betrayal, and Lies

By Don Kilmer | Published April 10, 2020 9:00 PM PT

Sick of discussing this virus? Me, too.

Instead let’s talk about lies. Let’s talk about the lies that the government tells us. And the lies that we tell ourselves to avoid the hard work of “altering or abolishing” a government that fails to secure our rights and liberties, and in fact has become destructive of those ends.

“To rob the public, it is necessary to deceive them. To deceive them, it is necessary to persuade them that they are robbed for their own advantage, and to induce them to accept in exchange for their property, imaginary services, and often worse.” –Frédéric Bastiat

It’s still early, but this COVID-19 adventure is taking on a stench. Have Americans tolerated petty (or not-so-petty) tyrannies because the government lied to us, again? It’s starting to look like the death projections from COVID-19 are off by an order of magnitude. What have we wrought? What is wafting out of that steaming pile of compost we call our government? How did the American public fall, yet again, for a betrayal that sacrifices all that is good and honorable about our country?

Many of us have been under house arrest for 30 or more days without benefit of indictment or trial. We are still paying thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in taxes to fund schools and other public goods that are standing idle and unused. Many of us (in the private sector) have lost jobs or the small businesses that fed our families. We were told it was for our own good. We were told that the young and strong must be sacrificed to the weak and vulnerable— even though it was possible to protect the weak without crippling the strong. And we will pay some $2 trillion dollars more to jump start the economy when the “emergency” is over. It looks like all this is to recover from a lie.

A sample of how and when my government has lied to me during my lifetime:

  1. The “Great Society’s” so-called War on Poverty will end poverty. Nope.
  2. The Tet Offensive. You can count that cost on a black marble wall in Washington, D.C.
  3. The so-called War on Drugs will end addiction. Nope.
  4. The Watergate Break-In. You can count that cost in any way you like.
  5. Iran-Contra. Even fellow-travellers get caught up in the convenient lie.
  6. America can go to war to save a theocratic monarchy to ensure world peace. Nope.
  7. “No New Taxes.” What’s left of a Republican president’s credibility was shattered.
  8. A religious cult in Waco, Texas supposedly killed themselves. Nope.
  9. The Era of Big Government is Over.” Nope.
  10. The Middle East has “weapons of mass destruction” that supposedly threaten the West. Nope.
  11. Some businesses are too big to fail. Nope.
  12. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Nope.
  13. YouTube videos cause terrorism. Nope.
  14. Russia hacked our election. Nope.
  15. A respiratory virus from China can bring down America. ?

This time, the jury is still deliberating, but it ain’t looking good. In each of the examples above, politicians from both dominant parties in this country—and their accomplices in the elite media—lied to us to secure our consent for policies that we were told were for the “common good.” All the experts said so. So, like a carnival mark, we gave our consent and opened our wallets. All of these policies built on lies have been disastrous and, in some cases, deadly. But we still have to make the payments.

It doesn’t matter if our politicians lie to line their own pockets, lie to satiate their greed for power, or lie because they’re naïve do-gooder altruists willing to sacrifice the able to the needy to achieve a false vision of Utopia.

Today is Good Friday. I leave to others its theological significance, including the predestination conundrum. But if we assume for a moment that Judas had a choice about whether to betray his rabbi, was he still wrong? One version has Judas make the betrayal with a kiss on the eve of Passover for 30 pieces of silver.

Apologists for Judas claim that he intended the money for the poor, and didn’t really think anything serious would befall Jesus, who was considered by many to be the ancient world’s version of a gadfly. Another Socrates, challenging the hypocrisy of the elites. A harmless fool telling the masses to live and let live, and to love your neighbor as yourself. What harm could come to Jesus? A couple of days in jail, in exchange for Judas receiving money to help the poor. That’s a win-win scenario, right?

Detractors claim Judas was always a conniving thief, controlled by Satan, and must be similarly condemned. Most versions of this event say that Judas did not long survive Jesus, especially after he witnessed the bitter fruit of his miscalculation: Jesus was subjected to the old world’s version of a kangaroo court and painful lynching. If Judas took his own life, might we assume that he actually was the altruist his apologists claim he was, and that his remorse was genuine and thus overwhelmed him to suicide?

It doesn’t matter. Whether Judas was a thief or Judas was an altruist, both were betrayers. Both were disloyal. Both were deadly. Motive does not mitigate the crime of betrayal. The offense is not lessened if the motive is graft or naïve goodness. Something greater is sacrificed to something lesser.

This is true for politicians today. Judas Iscariot would make a good patron saint for many of them.

Don Kilmer is a Second Amendment litigator living in Idaho and an editor of Talking. See Don’s previous essays on Talking. An RSS feed of Don’s essays is here.


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    In an otherwise excellent essay I think you make too much of the flawed modeling. These models were based on a given rate of transmission. If they spooked people into changing their behavior and “bending the curve” then they would be self-invalidating projections beyond just the ordinary challenges of extrapolating into the future.

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      That’s the optimist/pessimist paradox. (h/t VDH) The pessimist makes spooky predictions. If he’s right, he’s a genius. If they don’t pan out, he gets to claim credit for a good result by saying people wouldn’t have taken precautions if he hadn’t made spooky predictions. The optimist can’t win. If he predicts things aren’t so bad and they aren’t, he merely “predicted” the status quo. If he’s wrong, he’s responsible for people dying.