The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites — “an actor” or “a stage player.” (Phil Shirley / Flickr CC)

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites — “an actor” or “a stage player.” It literally translates as “an interpreter from underneath” which reflects that ancient Greek actors wore masks and the actor spoke from underneath that mask. Eventually the Greek word evolved to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not. This meaning made its way to medieval France and England, where it showed up as “ypocrite in 13th-century religious texts referring to someone who pretends to be morally good or pious in order to deceive others. Although homonymous, the figure of Hippocrates, a Greek physician often referred to as the father of medicine, has no relation.

As a graduate with an English literature degree, and a practicing speech-language pathologist, I find word origins and word meanings fascinating. In this case, seeing that the word ‘hypocrite’ originally meant a person who was acting, not one who is participating in reality, made so much sense.

I am deeply disturbed by the depth of hypocrisy encountered on a daily, if not hourly, basis in our present political, social, and cultural reality. I think I may date myself, but remember Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker? Jim and Tammy Faye, with her startling make-up, were hosts of the PTL (Praise the Lord) televangelism show and ran a Christian theme park. He was a minister and a Christian fundamentalist. Mr. Bakker ended up spending five years in prison for 24 counts of fraud and was accused of sexual  aggression and paying hush money to keep it quiet. He now sells real estate and $150 water bottles.

Then there’s John Paulk, who, you may recall from my last piece in WyoFile, was a fierce advocate of conversion therapy. From 1998 to 2003 he was the chairman of Exodus International of North America and led the ministry Love Won Out. He preached that homosexuality could be changed by counselling, prayer and God. He was a married man who claimed to have changed his own nature. In April 2013, Paulk disavowed his belief in gay reparative therapy and apologized for advocating it. He now states that he believes reparative therapy is both futile and harmful. And, yes, he is no longer married.

So I know you are all expecting that I am locked and loaded to take aim at the Republicans — but wait, they’re not alone.

During our recent government shutdown, the Democrats played hardball and used the shutdown to garner sympathy and to make a stand. However, both sides say we need improved border security. Trump moved away from his wall and indicated a barrier was acceptable, which the Democrats had also previously supported. But then Democratic leadership stated that Trump shut down the government because he didn’t get what he wanted. Democrats knew that some money was going to have to be used for border security, but instead of appearing to “give in,” they took a stand to resist Trump no matter what.

Then there’s the Democrats’ position on impeachment. This ball is tossed about as if they are waiting to see if they can score a point. The fact is, if there is evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, then there is actually no choice. As with any crime, you follow the evidence, follow correct procedure, and determine if the evidence meets the burden of proof. Until that time, the accused is innocent until determined guilty. Prosecuting crimes is not a choice. It is an obligation. It is not a decision based upon whether or not it is politically expedient. Either there are crimes or there are not.

But finally, yes, we have a party in power in both this state and our country that is no stranger to hypocrisy. They court the religious right and the moral authority. They haul Joe Biden over the ashes because he reportedly kissed the back of someone’s head, but do not rebuke a president who was recorded speaking about grabbing pussy and paying a porn star hush money.

In our state, they scream about the importance of state’s rights and local control, while trampling over a Teton County Commissioners’ local decision about a private school. The governor does not weigh in on important topics and then rebuke the legislature for not doing what he thinks they ought to. State legislators who adamantly strive to curtail the ability of women to access abortions also state that God gives them the right to execute prisoners and will not support the repeal of the death penalty. We have legislators past and present who will pick important topics and vigorously support those topics in order to claim their allegiance, but will then choose to vote against the very budget which contains those topics, so that they can claim allegiance to hard right fiscal conservatives.

There are no innocents here, folks.

Here is the problem as I see it. We have parties who will not allow their representatives to vote in any way other than in support of the party line. Politicians say what they have to say to get elected, because if they said what they really wanted to, they know the party and the people would not accept their truths. Politicians have become actors. They are playing to their audience. Their lines change with the audience. We are the audience, and we choose not to see them as actors, but to instead see them as campaigning in reality and speaking truth. We believe the social media, the tweets, and the sound bites and refuse to see them as props and lines in a grand drama.

I am sorry to say we created this drama. Think about a play or a movie, if no one buys the tickets or shows up at the performance, there is no drama. Every time we show up and believe the lines, tune into the sound bites, and read the tweets, we support the drama and further the careers of the actors — the hypocrites. If we want a government that represents the people, then we need to start electing people and not actors. We need to demand truth, not fake news and we need to accept uncomfortable facts about our economy, our climate and ourselves.

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I have two great kids, a spouse and wonderful friends — and, frankly, there are parts of them that drive me absolutely crazy. They have habits and rules that drive me wild. We don’t always share the same opinions. And, guess what, shocker, I am not perfect either. But none of this means we are not good, honest people who work hard and try to do our best with what we have. The difference is, I don’t and they don’t put on a mask and perform to please. They are themselves and I love and respect them for it.

Walk away from the stage. Put down your phones. Turn off the television. Stop listening to social media. Think, investigate, seek truth and vote. Vote for real people, demand real representation. Allow and accept differences of opinion. Grow up. This is the real world — not a movie. The actors and the hypocrites play to their audience. We are the audience. The performance changes when we do. We are the ones responsible for the hypocrites.

Jeanne Raney

Jeanne Raney is a speech language pathologist who has worked in preschool, public school and medical settings working with the special needs population. She has a master’s in communication disorders...

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  1. Well spoken, Ms. Raney. As the great philosopher, Pogo, noted in 1970, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

    The reason Wyoming’s elected officials continue to curtail citizens rights each legislative session is lack of backbone – by their constituents who won’t show the gumption to question and confront their underhanded dealings. It takes courage to stand and say, “The Emperor has no clothes on.”

    Thank goodness for those few organizations who fight for clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and energy sources like wind power which do not damage wildlife migration corridors and natural landscapes. It would be great to see Wyoming citizens “cowboy up” and I hope that will not come too late.