One thing is for damn certain in the Internet age; our ability to bullshit and lie and escape the embarrassing mistakes of our past has disappeared. Everything is recorded and cataloged and even more, it’s easily searchable. It’s a society where mistakes are instantly brought to light, and they are damning if the media thinks they’re juicy enough to foist upon us ad nauseum.
What got me thinking about this topic were the current Paula Deen scandal, and the political aspirations of the formerly disgraced Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer to become New York City’s Mayor and Comptroller respectively. Deen’s transgressions are very recent having said (among other things) that she wanted “a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days” for a wedding she was set to cater. She was fired from the Food Network and dumped by a ton of advertisers, executing one of the swiftest falls from grace in recent memory.
Weiner became infamous for sending near-naked tweets to women that weren’t his wife, while Spitzer, also married, became so for soliciting the services of high end prostitutes. It should be noted that neither of these things are insidious for the events that transpired, but instead for the portion of them that involved being dishonest with people close to them.
I cite both because of the different groups outraged with the various parties. Liberals generally want to bury Paula Deen so that she never again sees the light of day, and conservatives are likewise incredulous that Weiner and Spitzer have made a decent effort of resurrecting their political careers. It’s perfectly fair, and worthwhile to criticize Deen and Weiner and Spitzer for what were some pretty reprehensible actions, but let’s take a step back here.
Everyone has done shit like this. If’ it’s not using words like nigger, it’s using faggot, or homo, or retarded, or wetback, or Jew (thanks for that South Park). It’s harassing someone to the point of bullying, or it’s not standing up for someone being bullied. It’s committing any number of infidelities that vary widely as each relationship is defined. Of course when I was a kid no one had a camera-phone and the internet was still in its early days so very little of this was recorded and even less of it was logged for all to see forever. That has certainly changed.
What we have now is an unfair expectation for our leaders and role models to be perfect in combination with an ability to document and glorify every tiny miscue they make. The latter half of that is only going to get worse, so we need to work on the former, otherwise what we’re going to do is continue to promote the kind of lying that Weiner and Spitzer were guilty of when they attempted to hide their flaws amid a media drooling at the prospect of plastering them across page after page. We need to evolve the part of ourselves that seeks to punish indiscretions and replace it with a desire to learn from them. We need to accept that people can make mistakes, even bad ones, and learn from them and still be good people. If Deen is a pathological racist and Weiner and Spitzer pathological liars (to an extent even beyond the context of politics), then sure, kill their careers with fire, but let’s not act like their livelihoods should be ruined by singular events, because we’re all in a lot of trouble if that’s where things are headed.