by Dennis Peacocke
In some way, all human beings fall short in terms of being who they say they are, or think they are. Integrity, therefore, is relative, no matter how exemplary someone may be who embodies it. All of us have greater or lesser “feet of clay.” Having said this, “deception” is a whole other animal; when someone says they will do something and does the opposite, or portrays themselves as one thing and turns out to be another, disappointment is inevitably the result.
Over the last decade, we have experienced a number of “famous” people’s moral failures. Some of them were “garden variety,” and some of them were real shockers. President Clinton was no shocker, nor were most of the athlete doping scandals. The religious world gave us some high profile moral failures, as did Mel Gibson’s family-hero failure, and Bernie Madoff’s scandalous Ponzi-scheme, which decimated hundreds of investor’s retirement accounts.
This last year, 2009, has given us two ignoble examples of this phenomenon. Tiger Woods and Barack Obama have given us all cause for thought, disillusionment, or worse. Let’s deal with Tiger first. Tiger Woods is a walking embodiment of what specific discipline, training, and passion can produce. An outstanding athlete, his golf skills are a true phenomena. When he burst onto the PGA scene in 1996, he set new standards within the game of golf. Beyond that, he helped put together the “Tiger Machine,” a business-marketing group of experts, unprecedented in athletics. He sold himself as a model of self-control, a family man, and one committed to both excellence and integrity. With Tiger, “what you saw was what you got,” or so we were told. Now we know differently. He doesn’t just have “clay feet,” he is a moral fraud who needs professional help. Personally, I find no joy in his failure, and realize that he is now “marked for life,” unless he publically humbles himself in a remarkable way and privately lives it out.
President Obama is a bit of the same thing for some of us, but an “I told you so” for others. He campaigned as a “moderate” Democrat who promised to deliver us from politics as usual. He embodied the possibility of transcending so much that needed to be transcended. Instead, he surrounded himself with left-wing radicals, collected political mechanics who embody “Chicago-style” hard-ball partisan politics, operates in the same secrecy for which he attacked the Bush administration, and has pushed through a highly controversial health-care bill which violated all the non-partisan promises and openness he emphatically promised the American people. “Are you kidding me!” is the cry of those who wanted to believe him, as they are left either disillusioned, sarcastic, or further encased in their cynicism.
Deceptions and disappointments certainly don’t help our faith in our culture or the system. Who is “for real?” Barack had the right message – we need change – but he and Tiger haven’t helped by giving us more of the same. We continue to be fed false promises and “fronts” with little apparent substance, and that is…
the bottom line.