The manly man doesn’t believe in kicking a guy while he’s down. And the manly man won’t join in a “piling on” frenzy. So I have mixed feelings about the topic this week. See, I was going to write about something entirely different. But the Tuesday newspaper jarred me plumb off track.
Three remarkable stories hit me one after the other: (1.) Bernie Madoff appeared in court to answer for his crimes. As the mastermind behind the most enormous and corrupt Ponzi scheme to infect Wall Street, the 71 year old Madoff received a 150 year prison sentence. (2.) Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina tearfully confessed to betraying his wife and misleading his constituency. He carried on an affair with a woman he describes as his “soul mate.” But says he is now trying to “fall back in love with his wife. (3.) Andrew Young, a former close aide to John Edwards, has a book deal. You will remember, of course, that Edwards’ presidential campaign went down in scandalous flames when he was caught skulking from a rendez vous with his mistress. Young has written a book in which he plans to expose some of the smelly facts in the back story. He will say that Edwards begged him to lie about the paternity of the out-of-wedlock child born to Edwards mistress. He will claim that Edwards promised him he would be taken care of for life if he would stand by the lie.
Now, all three of these men are thoroughly discredited. They’re ruined. Unless they are able to find a real road to public redemption, they will leave a legacy of shame and dishonor when they depart this life. Any good they did or might have done will be overwhelmed by their villainy.
No doubt, columns, articles and books aplenty will roll off the presses trumpeting the lessons to be learned from the downfalls of these men.
Since this column is supposed to deal with the topic of manliness, the question must be asked: What can these three teach us about the make-up of the manly man. That’s easy. Nothing.
But there are certain things all three of them have in common which should cause us to be on the lookout.
(1.) They’re all three nice looking fellows. Are we too impressed by the polished exterior? Ever since the Trojans learned their disastrous less, can’t we see that it’s foolish to be taken in by the slick packaging? Shouldn’t we have some skill at looking past the tailored suit, the $400 haircut, the charming smile and the smooth phrase? Shouldn’t we, as adults, know that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is?
(2.) They all told us, with toothy smiles, that we could trust them. Maybe its impossible, but shouldn’t there be some way that people can be required to prove their trustworthiness before they have a chance to “get to us?” There was a time when honorable military service and marital fidelity were safeguards of a sort. But I guess those days are gone. I guess there are no shortcuts. It’s like my high school literature teacher used to say “Don’t blame me if you don’t do your homework.”
(3.) They’re all very sorry. No kidding. But regret expressed at this stage carries a heavy freight of suspicion. Is it heart felt or hypocrisy? Are they sorry for what they’ve done, or just sorry they got caught? In Sanford’s case, you get the feeling he was wracked by guilt even at the moment he was betraying everyone who trusted him. I don’t get that feeling from the other two. Not that it matters, because all three of them went right ahead with their destructive behavior with little or no regard for the heartache they were bound to cause.
George Washington gave some of the manliest advice that can be taken to heart. “Labor to keep alive in your heart that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” He sure packed a powerful sentiment into this little quote. If our three disappointments would have paused each morning to spend some time internalizing this advice, they might be respected and admired today instead of---well, you know.
Speaking of Washington, July 3 marks the anniversary of the day he assumed command of the continental army. Of course there are too many events that occurred this week in history that are precious to those who love freedom. To those who serve it, our respects. To those who dishonor it, shame on you.
I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
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Thu, July 2, 2009
by Michael Hinkle