Thursday, March 27, 2008

Motives vs. Behaviors

I'm late getting out of work and promised my child I'd attend her school's orchestra performance, in which she plays violin. The speed limit is 35 which no one ever does so I'm moving along at close to fifty. Out of nowhere, or so it seems to me, a car comes up behind me, rides my bumper for a bit and then passes me like I'm standing still. Really flying--probably close to seventy(!) What a (insert your favorite expletive here). It was okay for me to speed, because I knew why I was doing it. It wasn't okay for the other car because I didn't know the motivation-all I saw was the behavior.

We do this to one another all day long. We judge one based on the other even though we don't know the correlation. I never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance, on my good days. However, when I'm being venal or petty or mean-spirited (and to some extent all three of those descriptors can be used interchangeably, I guess), I'm in the game jumping to conclusions and making judgments, based on close to vapor. I rationalize it by realizing we all behave this way.

So, are we foolish when we hope those who seek to be our next President are better than this-that they take a higher road than we might? I don't know, I really don't. However, I will say that I get a little annoyed when one candidate who has repeatedly described a visit in an overseas environment a number of years as if it were a quasi-war zone, admit there has been some mis-statement in that description. I think the actual word used was 'misspoken.' What does that actually mean? I wanted to say 'I love you' and instead said 'you eat bugs'? Does it mean saying boll weevil when you meant to say medieval? Isn't 'lie' a more concise and accurate description of what happened and doesn't its use close the discussion with nothing left lingering better than a half-truth?

Another candidate offers his personal view on Race in America, a discussion we've avoided having here almost from the moment the first captured peoples were unloaded four hundred years ago. The American colonies didn't invent slavery-ask Moses and the Egyptians and it was the American nation that ended it-but what I'm curious about, in light of the remarks made by this candidate's minister that precipitated the Race in America speech in the first place, why does he continue to worship there and otherwise support a person whose behavior seems to contradict what his motivations as a clergyman should be?

There's a third candidate who, six months ago, was considered to be walking wounded and who, instead, has ended up as last man standing. He's the same now as he was then so what changed and why?

We insist that any child can grow up to be the President of the United States but our expectations for those seeking the office are so much more exaggerated and elevated than those we hold for the person who works in the next office or who lives next door to us. And yet we don't seem to either notice (or acknowledge) the contradiction or find it off-putting.
Sometimes the things we do speak so loudly I can't hear what we're saying.
-bill kenny

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