The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the environment of dishonesty and distrust that pervades our society. Everyone, it seems, throws up facades that hide the real person, event, or purpose. We have to search behind the fake fronts to discover the truth. The Potemkin effect has taken over our nation.
The Potemkin effect got its name from a story about a man named Grigory Potemkin who lived in the late 18th century and was governor of a certain area in Russia. Catherine the Great announced that she would tour the southern part of her empire with some foreign dignitaries. the As the royal visitors floated down the Dnieper River they saw thriving villages along the banks of the river filled with happy and hardworking people. The problem, it seems, is that all the villages were fake. Potemkin was so intent on impressing the royal visitors that he assembled facades of shops and cottages out of pasteboard and placed happy-looking peasants in the fields. Once the royal party was out of side, the fake village was taken down and rushed to the next place downstream. Even though this story may not be true, the term “Potemkin village” is part of the vocabulary of the world. It refers to any attempt made by anyone who is trying to make other people believe that something or someone is better than they really are.
Monica Showalter posted an article about Joe Biden and his attempt to project himself as an average American while being treated as a star. She calls him “Potemkin Joe” and claims that he is far from being an “everyman” candidate.
But the idea that this guy is an “everyman” candidate is pretty well blown apart by this kind of rock-star treatment, which is delivered only to the elites of the elites. Socialist Bernie has his private jet and three homes. Amtrak Joe has his contracted gourmet cuisine and vice presidential name plate on his dressing room door. All others take the campaign bus.
Biden is most likely not the only person on the campaign trail that puts up a false front.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) is running for President of the United States on the fake idea that she is one with the black descendants of slaves. Her own father called her out on her claim saying that he is Jamaican and descended from slave owners.
There is not much that we can do about other people who build their Potemkin villages except beware and search for the truth. We can, however, be genuine ourselves. Then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave some counsel about being true in a Potemkin world. He said that there is nothing wrong with trying to look as good as we can – shine our shoes, paint our homes, hide the dirty dishes when unexpected company comes. He said that it is when “this desire to impress shifts from being useful to deceitful” that we should be concerned.
The Savior had a good description for such people, those who tried to appear righteous when they were just looking for praise, influence and wealth. He called them “whited sepulchers” – they were beautiful on the outside but full of uncleanness within. President Uchtdorf’s counsel is as follows.
Whether your testimony is thriving and healthy or your activity in the Church more closely resembles a Potemkin village, the good news is that you can build on whatever strength you have. Here in the Church of Jesus Christ you can mature spiritually and draw closer to the Savior by applying gospel principles day by day.
With patience and persistence, even the smallest act of discipleship or the tiniest ember of belief can become a blazing bonfire of a consecrated life. In fact, that’s how most bonfires begin – as a simple spark.
So if you feel small and weak, please simply come unto Christ, who makes weak things strong. The weakest among us, through God’s grace, can become spiritually strong, because God “is no respecter of persons.” He is our “faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments.”
So, instead of putting up a false front or becoming “whited sepulchers,” let us attack the real problems. We each have strengths and talents. We all have something to offer. We are all individuals, but we all have value to society and to Heavenly Father.