Sunday, February 10, 2019
My Sunday Feeling
Lord knows that I did my share of foolish things as a younger man. And I humbly breathe a prayer of heartfelt relief when I consider that neither smartphones nor the Internet were around when I was out doing those foolish things. Most of my stupid behavior centered around women and alcohol or any combination thereof. The majority of my misdeeds, in retrospect, were fairly harmless in the great scheme of things. And none of them, knock on wood, have come back to haunt me or cause me to invoke any particular period of limitations as my best defense.
Then again, unlike the Governor of Virginia I never posed for pictures while in blackface. Unlike the Attorney General of the Old Dominion, i never put it on as part of a skit.
What's the deal? Is it a Virginia thing?
I grew up here in Arkansas with my fair share of guys whose views on racial matters could charitably be described as unevolved. I knew folks, especially in my much younger days, who casually tossed around racial slurs without thinking twice about it. But I never knew anybody who ever put on blackface. Or Klan robes either.
As I grew older, I certainly began to make acquaintances that were old moneyed conservative types from the Olde South, whose attitudes were probably not too terribly far removed from some of my fellow rednecks I grew up with on the County Line. But they were too genteel and mannerly, at least in my presence, to give voice to such attitudes. I can't imagine them wearing blackface either at some point at a fraternity party or such. Although I concede I can't swear that some of them didn't.
Here's the thing I don't get. A career in politics was probably the last thing on Ralph Northam's mind when he posed in blackface along with a medical school classmate adorned in Klan robes for the med school yearbook. You're pretty young at 24 or 25. I get that. But he wasn't some dumbass 15 year old all jacked up on malt liquor either. Indeed, he was fixing to go off and start training to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. Which I would think requires a certain maturity and concentration of the mind.
And a bell didn't go off in his head that warned him that this was a bad idea? That maybe this might come back to bite him on the ass?
I don't get it. I just don't.
But here's a fair question. I earlier made a semi-joking reference to a statute of limitations that I could seek refuge in at this point in my dotage. But is there a period of limitations when it comes to youthful indiscretions? Recent experiences with public figures such as Gov. Northam and Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh suggest there may not be. And maybe that's fair. Politics is (are?) politics. It's not the criminal law. If it matters to voters I suppose that's pretty much all that matters.
But we as a nation need to get a grasp on just how far back in time we are going to hold our public figures accountable for stupid stuff they did back in the day. Because sooner than later we are going to see videos and pics of candidates for public office from when they were drunk at a sorority party, sipping champagne from a bottle at a wedding reception or vaping. It will happen.
I tell kids all the time that you got to assume that somebody is taking a pic without them knowing it. Or saving a text or an email for future reference. I know many young people who are conscientiously attempting to conduct themselves as youthful pillars of rectitude with an eye to the future. Is a history of avoiding instead of dodging bullets while young the new path for public office?
I kinda liked seeing AOC dancing on a rooftop in her college days. I thought nothing of Sarah Palin having competed in beauty pageants. John McCain stayed in hot water with his CO's. George H.W. Bush kept his still oiled up first basemen's mitt from Yale in his Oval Office desk drawer. He would pound a ball in it as he thought things through. Young George Washington chopped down the cherry tree. Except he didn't. You get the picture.
Do we want to just elect robots who have been building resumes since the 9th grade? Or do we want people with real flesh, real blood and real flaws. People like you and me. Where do we draw the line?
As the text of the old anthem by Richard Farrant puts it (and you should give it a listen on YouTube): "Lord for thy tender mercies sake, lay not our sins to our charge. But forgive that is past and give us grace to amend our sinful lives." Does that concept not extend to politicians?
What the Governor of Virginia did as a young man was palpably stupid. Way stupider than anything I ever did as a young man. And that's going some. His recent attempt to lame out of it was even dumber. The Commonwealth's Al-Jolson-In Chief says that he will not resign. Rather he intends to go about attempting to foment "racial conciliation." There's some nerve.
But he is Virginia's problem. If they "forgive that is past" that is their prerogative.
Having said that, I'm guessing Bill Clinton is really happy he never had to deal with smartphones or the Internet while he was a young politician.