A few years ago I heard someone quoted saying that in this country you can say whatever you want because no one’s listening anyway. I don’t recall who said it, but I seem to remember it being an actor, comedian or satirist of some sort. I suppose I didn’t listen to who was saying it, but I did read and retain what was said.
I like that statement. It’s one I try to remind myself of daily. Sometimes to calm my nerves for having said something. Most times to help explain the behavior of others. When they are rude, nasty, and inappropriate I just assume they are used to not being heard and have given up on having a voice.
As a country we accept and support this as a valid excuse of just about anything. Clearly the most obvious of this was Ronald Reagan using the “I don’t recall” line to save his butt from being indicted for treason over the Iran Contra Scandal. The entire Bush administration used it to cover their either knowledge of or their accountability for not following up in the wake of available information prior to the 9/11 attacks.
I do not recall is the public face of not listening. People don’t listen, and then use the I don’t remember line as an excuse to diffuse accountability. Well, they will listen if they can make money off it. Politicians, celebrities, artists get caught all the time. Are they stupid or just used to not being listened to? I would say probably half and half. When they are called out they claim the “I’m not a role model” excuse.
Well I have news for you. People do listen, and when you least expect it. And using the line I don’t recall or I didn’t know, does not have the desired long term effect. Sure, you may get off from getting accused of a crime. You may save face in publicly not being wrong. But those who know, know.
I am a role model. Being a human being in a civilized society, I am a role model for those who’s path I cross. It is my human responsibility, based on the principles of the country in which I was raised, to stand up for the right to be treated equally, and to be treated with dignity and respect. I have a right to be innocent until proven guilty. I am required to act responsibly, ethically, and morally. That does not mean not rocking the boat. It does not mean always following the law. It means standing up for myself, my family, and what I know to be true. We are all role models.
Tiger Woods screwed up and claimed an addiction and went to rehab. His endorsement deals were reduced, but he still acts as a role model to our children, despite his unsportsman like behavior, and is financially compensated for that. Spitzer held the world to a higher standard, then covered up his descent into that very moral gutter. Only in light of overwhelming evidence, he claimed an addiction and went to rehab. He resigned his political position and then took a higher paying job as a media personality, reporting on the failings of others. Arnold … nevermind. He hasn’t acknowledged an addiction, and really hasn’t apologized to any real position. He seems to be more disgusted that he has to take a break before bringing his character star back up to make his bazillions of dollars from his movie career, not understanding that his bad behavior is stronger than his arrogance. Comedians and athletes are constantly making slurs or comments as part of their acts, excitable behavior, or reactions. They eventually admit they were wrong (when their bookings or wallets are hit), go off to sensitivity rehab, and then come back. Michael Vick … oh, never mind on that one, that one is still so wrong. Suffice it to say I don’t give a rat’s ass about the culture he was raised in, where dog fighting is part of the culture. He grew up in this country and that behavior is illegal and deplorable and he’s accountable. He knew he was breaking the law and while he paid is time allowable for the crime he was found guilty of, the law is wrong and not strong enough. He’s a mess and those who support him … well, as another quote goes, you are judged by the company you keep.
My point is, someone is always watching. Someone is always listening. Sometimes it’s just me.
No one will make millions of dollars from news organizations for breaking a story about something I say or do. I am not a famous person, I am not a celebrity, so no one is going to get rich off a misstep of mine. I do make them. I will continue to make them. I am human. But as a role model, and as a human being, it is my responsibility to take accountability for my actions. If I am wrong, which I frequently am, I admit it. If I have an opinion and after discussion with others or experience in life, it changes, I have that right and responsibility to change it to what I believe in. It is also my responsibility as a human being to acknowledge that I previously held an opinion to the contrary. It is not to call out someone for being a liar when they were not, or confused when they should not be, or misinformed when they weren’t.
Along the same lines it bothers me to have to thank people for doing the right thing. Many many years ago my car was parked outside my house. Wait, actually, this happened to me twice, now that I think of it. Both times someone hit my car and dented it. No one was hurt. No one was abusive, no one really did anything wrong, except the other driver not paying attention. We all do this at times. Unfortunately for those two drivers, it had consequences. Both times everything worked out fine. They both alerted me, gave me their information, and covered all the damage they caused. Both times role models of mine told me how grateful I should be that they obeyed the law and gave me their information; that they alerted me even when no one saw it.
Yes, I was grateful, but why should I have to be? And why should I have to thank them for it? I did, it’s polite, we were all friendly and everything went fine, but while the damages were covered, my insurance still increased (no fault insurance is really all fault), and I was out of a car for several weeks on both accounts, without compensation for an alternative. But I was told to be grateful. It was even insinuated, on both occasions, not by the other drivers, that perhaps had I not parked in that spot my car would not have been hit. I was parked legally each time. That this happened twice in different locations was not lost on those around me, suggesting that perhaps it was me parking that way deliberately. That type of thinking makes me want to be a hermit and write off people entirely.
What I’m saying is, there are so many excuses we make for bad behavior, so many excuses we make for the sake of making excuses, that it doesn’t matter what we say, we assume no one is listening, and that we aren’t ever heard. That our documentation, our explanations, our questions and our requests go ignored. Because no one’s listening. And when they’re required to, they don’t remember. I suppose that’s better than acknowledging that they just didn’t care enough to pay attention.
We are now taught to be grateful of good behavior, because it’s no longer accepted as normal. I guess the next time someone says they don’t remember something I said or wrote, I should be grateful they choose to be polite about it instead of saying outright that they don’t care.