Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Mistake" politics

"But he made a mistake, and that's the bottom line. ... He came out and admitted what he did and now it's time to move on."

That was Derek Jeter's quote concerning Alex Rodriguez's admitted steroid use. Yet, it has become a pattern that I think began in politics, thank you Bill Clinton, and now has spread to become a staple in every public relations strategy.

It is not accurate to call repeated steroid use which broke various laws and rules of baseball for at least 2 years a "mistake". To use a singular term to describe multiple complex actions is misleading and calculating. In fact, Rodiriguez has admitted to being a serial cheater. Not just once, but numerous times over years. A mistake might be that he tried steroids once. Literally one time. If that was the case, we probably wouldn't be talking about it.

This misuse of the English language is becoming commonplace. It is masking a certain dishonesty that has replaced the norm of the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".

I didnt' support the impeachment of President Clinton because I thought his crimes weren't high crimes and misdemeanors as understood in the U.S. Constitution. However, one of the arguments for his removal that I somewhat discounted as politics as usual then, but now has a more currency with me is the idea that the President was modeling a new disregard for the truth. I think his parsing of language, and his determination to tell the truth, while not telling it really has become mainstream.

We need to establish new mores. New accountability that is rational but compassionate.

In the steroids debate, I'm rather agnostic, but the ramifications for society are much more important to me. Rules have to matter. With billions and billions of people on earth we have to create and maintain order and discipline. This means following laws and rules that I or you might not agree with. This must be done on many levels both big and small so that we internalize a strong sense of morality. The police and the authorities can't be our first line of defense, there's not enough of them (nor should there be). We have to police ourselves. That begins with speaking accurately about situations, and not trying to change reality by using clever wording.

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