Sometimes It’s Okay To Lie

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Everyone understands that it’s sometimes okay to lie.

If Anne Frank is in your attic and the Nazis are at your door, what do you do? Do you tell them “Oh, yeah, she’s up there alright, guys!”? No, you lie. Everyone understands this.

Maybe Anne Frank isn’t in your attic. But maybe the Nazis are baking pies, and they’re just popping over to borrow some sugar. Do you tell them, “Oh, sure, I’ve got plenty of sugar. Help yourselves, guys!” Do you contribute to the world’s supply of Nazi pies? No way. You lie. You say, “I’m sorry, but I’m on the slow carb Mediterranean Paleo diet. I don’t keep sugar in the house.”  People get this. They get that Nazis are confused by complicated dietary restrictions.

Or what if the Nazis just want a recommendation for an improv show? Do you nonchalantly say, “Oh, yeah, check out the troupe The Frank Mills at ColdTowne Theater. Super strong group, guys.” Of course not. You lie. You tell the Nazis about the “awesome troupe” Stop Van Gogh, who are actually a much weaker group that can barely hold their scene work together. The last thing you want is a bunch of Nazis getting all inspired to take classes at your improv theater, even if studying the art form could make them better people.

What if the Nazis want directions to Starbucks? Dating advice? Stock tips? The last known whereabouts of their keys? Doesn’t matter. Nazis. Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie.

So far, so good. Now let’s say it’s not literal nazis at your door but rather your roommate Robert. And let’s say that you often compare Robert to a Nazi, due to his whiny Nazi-like objections to the loud death metal that you play late at night. Robert is asking you all sorts of intrusive questions about whether you saw the perpetrator that tee-peed and threw eggs at his car. Question: Does a man who stringently adheres to music curfew rules deserve the unvarnished truth? Most people intuitively just get that Robert deserves no honest treatment.

But what if Robert is asking you why you’re so lazy and you never clean up after yourself? Question: Have you completely, 100% ruled out the possibility that Robert is a Nazi? Is it possible that Robert has been stealing away to the den at night to read little bits of Mein Kampf? You can’t 100% rule it out, can you?

Pretty much everyone who’s thinking clearly will get that it’s totally fine to lie to Robert a little, in case he’s a Nazi. Tell Robert you were diagnosed, as a child, with “messyupus,” a rare disease that makes cleaning up after yourself a bit hard. Whatever you tell Robert is fine, because sometimes it’s okay to lie.

Great. Great. Perfect. Now let’s go just a little, tiny step farther and say that in the process of stealing Robert’s identity in order to apply for extra credit cards to buy more video games you inadvertently trigger Robert’s fraud protection service, which alerts him to your scheme. When Robert is confronting you with all of his typical nagging and questions, do you distract him by blurting out “the man who you think is your father is not your real father, Robert!”?

After all, that’s a complete lie—apparently. But what’s not a lie is this: Robert has a father. Hitler had a father. All Nazis had a father. Do you see the parallels? They’re right there in front of you if you’ll just open your eyes.

The only way that Robert wouldn’t have a father would be if Robert were a conscious automaton—a bot that you created in your cyborg workshop. All his life, Robert picked up after you, cooked your meals, listened to you complain about the trivialities of your day, while thinking that he was a flesh-and-blood human with human parents and a horrible roommate. But those memories were all lies, lies that you implanted into Robert’s wetware. Yet Robert never questioned whether his entire life was a hoax. Like a sheep, Robert played the role. That’s right: a sheep; a stupid Nazi sheep. Fortunately, sometimes it’s okay to lie.


Okay to Lie to Nazis Pic licensed under CC 2.0.

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Written by

Alex Baia is a humor writer and contributor to McSweeney’s and Slackjaw. He lives in Austin, TX.