Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Danger of Judge mentalism

I've written about this before, but it seems a good time to revisit, with the death of Michael Jackson and rampant affairs in the Republican party (especially presidential hopefuls, it seems).

There is no end to those who would cross the line from Judgment (MJ was strange) to Judgmental (MJ molested children). I made the mistake myself the other day when I referred to him as a pedophile on Facebook, forgetting he had been cleared of all charges in his child molestation case.

It wasn't a fair statement, tho we all do wonder.

The truth is we don't know. And now, as soldiers say, G-d will sort it out. It's the shade of doubt that makes me bristle at people pronouncing labels and slurs.

When we don't have all the facts, we often leap to conclusions that are flawed, and ungenerous.

A few days ago many of us thought that Gov. Sanders, (SC) was off hiking for a week. We speculated that maybe he was hiking naked, since Naked Hiking Day was on June 21, the Summer solstice. It was funny, harmless.

How wrong we were. He was on a hike, so to speak, and surely he was naked. But his admission of an affair showed how far off we were.

We were all curious because, after all, he is a very public figure, like MJ. But to reserve judgement is to say "I don't know all the facts." And sometimes it is good to say "I haven't lived that person's life."

It takes a certain degree of arrogance and self-righteousness to be judgemental. We feel morally justified in "calling a spade a spade". But what if we are wrong? How much damage did MJ suffer by being constantly scrutinized?

He was clear about his abusive upbringing - his Dad once beat him with a belt while holding him upside down by one foot. Michael was also clear that the paparazzi's invasion in his private life was cruel and unusual punishment.

Ironically, it was Michael holding his infant son out over a balcony for the press in London that makes it clear he suffered from his own lack of judgment. And yet, that doesn't justify the constant barrage of interest in every detail of his life.

We must give people some privacy and respect.

I think we are a world of consumers on crack. We crave the intimate details of the lives of others, as if it's our next fix and if we don't get it, we'll die.

Die of what? Of boredom with our own lives? Of having no where to turn for pain relief if we DO take the time to look at our own lives, and find it lacking, instead of feeding off the juicy minutiae of celebrity lives?

We are constantly looking for entertainment and "medication". Movies, TV, sex, drinking, over-working, even crippling worry about the economy, which damn few of us can do anything about.

Any form of distraction will do.

In the end, here is the result: our constant craving makes the paparazzi relevant and well paid. The junk food media practically stalks public figures, including our government officials.

I have met the enemy, and it is us.

We ourselves drive intelligent people away from public service.

Who among us wants to go into public service? Or want this for our children? Very few. I would never submit to the kind of constant attention that pulp fiction writers (not journalists, but those hacks, tabloid-like reporters) put on our public servants.

It wasn't always this way.

John Kennedy was taught that along with great privilege comes great responsibility. How many of us teach that to our children today?

We have let the paparazzi pierce a veil of privacy, beyond reasonable reckoning. With that, we subject our leaders to too much stress. And they fall like flies. Why? Because they are incapable?

No, because they are human. Just like the rest of us. We want and crave heroes, leaders that inspire, then we crucify them on the poll of public opinion.

Don't get me wrong, we desperately need heroes and heroines. People who are upright and honest, courageous and intelligent, bold yet humble. But we demand too high a price.

As a result, and in spite of their best efforts, our entire system - the democracy should be made up of dependent on strong, honest, smart people to run it, suffers.

Even John McCain, in my mind an honorable man, fell to the temptation of playing politics, working the media, working "the system".

So first we should give our public figures - both performers and public servants - more privacy. And when they fall, allow a degree of Grace to let them recover.

But one last note - we all hate hypocrites. The fatal flaw leading to Republicans' demise? Constant rhetoric about "moral fitness" to serve and "family values" (as they define them). Governor Sanders was very outspoken in all his moralizing when he voted to impeach then President Clinton.

At least Clinton never claimed to be a saint. I don't ever recall him being self-righteous.

I've always said what happens behind closed doors is none of our business. What happens within a marriage is on sacred ground, and again is never any of our business. Once upon a time Republicans believed this too.

When someone who preaches upright behavior then falls from Grace, we perhaps should be more concerned about their self-righteousness and judgmentalism, than their poor judgment.

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