and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
June #4

Father, Fuzzywump and Finneran
© by Barbara Anderson

The Lowell Sun
Sunday, June 19, 2005

I have always credited my father with the fact I cannot tell a lie, and I think of him every time someone says, presumptuously, that “everyone lies.”

Everyone doesn’t. Dad didn’t lie or fib. But it wasn’t a big moral deal with him, which is probably why it “took” with me in a way that many Catholic-framed moral prohibitions did not. In our family, it was a simple law of the universe: you eat, you breathe, you tell the truth.

My mother wasn’t as dogmatic: she would tell a caller that Dad wasn’t home when if fact he was eating dinner. And he would chide her, “Now, MaryAnn...” as he took the call. Mother insisted she wouldn’t have to lie if he’d just truthfully say he’d get back to the caller after dinner. Or she’d tell me to inform the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door that my parents weren’t home – and my dad would say, “Now MaryAnn.... Just tell them we have our own religion.”

“Our own religion” doesn’t make the same case about lying. The Ten Commandments forbid bearing false witness against someone, but don’t forbid other lies and fibs. This is not to say that lying to a nun, for any reason whatever, was a smart thing to do. If one asked you if you were chewing gum, you had to swallow it fast before saying “No, Sister.”

But I’ve always credited my father with teaching me to always tell the truth. Yet I realized last week, when my grandchildren were visiting, that there was another influence attributable to mother. I’d assembled some of my childhood books for them and Maya chose one of my favorites, “Raggedy Ann and the Magic Book” by Johnny Gruelle. My mother must have read to me a hundred times before I could read it myself.

Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy found a Magic Book, into which they could jump and be part of the fairy tale. Their companions in this adventure were a puppydog and a little man called Fuzzywump, who always said the opposite of what he meant. He would say “I’m sorry to see you’ when he meant he was glad, and “please go away” when he meant “come right in.” It took awhile for Ann and Andy to catch on but once they did they fixed him by holding him upside down until his brain righted itself.

"How did you ever get in the habit of saying exactly the opposite of what you mean?" Raggedy Ann asked the Fuzzywump....

"When I was a little teeny weeny Fuzzywump mother would say, 'Wumpie, you must wash your feet before you go to bed.' And I would say, 'Alright mother!' and I wouldn't do it at all. Then in the morning mother would ask me ...and I would say, yes, and I had not done it.’"

"No wonder you grew so you couldn't say what you meant!" the puppydog said.

"’Yes!" the Fuzzywump agreed, "One little fib is just like a seed. It grows and grows until, in the end you have a large clump of fib weeds. I had grown so in the habit of telling fibs, I couldn't tell the truth without meaning the opposite...”

Ah, a cautionary tale. After reading it to Maya (Aidan was busy squirting passing cars with my squirtgun), I found myself thinking how much the little Fuzzywump looked like Tom Finneran, and how it was too bad that he hadn’t read “Raggedy Ann and the Magic Book.” Because while the Ten Commandments don’t say anything about lying to a grand jury about one’s own actions, certainly this would fall into the fib category – not to mention the secular laws that make it an indictable offense.

Whether it’s about washing one’s feet, overseeing redistricting, or just talking casually to other people: it is so much easier, children, to always tell the truth.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.