discomfort (2006-49)

Wide-angle Lens

When judging the big picture, close-up shots alone don’t cut it

by Steve Dupree

I know this will be difficult for those of you who know me to believe, but occasionally in the course of my life, I have made choices that upon reflection appear to be other than angelic in intent and outcome. It is also true that I have made choices that were altruistic and generous and might have been described by some as angelic in nature.

If my moral stature and civic value were to be assessed, it would be unfair if both sets of choices were not taken into consideration. To be completely fair, they would have to also take into account the circumstances that surrounded the choices and all aspects of the outcome of those choices. My age, experience, job, influences, financial condition, marital status, parental status, and, and, and… could all be integral parts of the story.

In this situation, I am different from absolutely no one of whom I am aware. We are all complex creatures with motivations and stimuli that include chemical, biological, historical, reactive, emotional and more.

In the news of late, there have been a number of sensationalist stories involving well-known figures on the national, regional, and local levels. Few, in the cases I am thinking of, bear any similarity with the exception that we, the affected community, appear to be judging them solely on the merits/demerits of the sensationalist act. 

In the entertainment industry, Mel Gibson and Michael Richards ( Seinfeld ’s Kramer) have both had well-publicized episodes of racist diatribes. Gibson attributes his lapse to alcohol, and Richards attributes his to anger at being heckled on stage.

I have personally been drunk. I have personally been seriously angry at the inconsiderate behavior of some audience members when a colleague or I was on stage. If the only thing used in an assessment of my civic value was my actions on one or more of the occasions that I was in the throes of chemically induced stupidity, I’m pretty sure that I would be invited to leave the planet. If I was evaluated solely on things I have done while angry, I would probably be forced to leave the planet. However, if you balance those judgments with the rest of my life and actions, I think you will find that I am no bad person.

This in no way means that Gibson and Richards aren’t racist; it may mean that their positive contributions to society in general are sufficient to justify giving them more time to work on such racist and/or other antisocial attitudes that they may have. To know what it means or what action should be taken or not, it is just and intelligent that the totality of their lives be considered.

I once spent several afternoon hours at a bar being served drinks and laughing, joking and conversing with an individual who turned out to be a serial rapist/killer. I suppose that afternoon has completely obliterated any chance I had to be a U.S. Senator given how offended we, the good people of Tennessee, were supposed to be at the very idea that Harold Ford Jr. had attended a party that was also attended by a few Playboy bunnies. I did not hire the bartender or schedule his shift. Ford did not plan the party, throw the party, create or approve of the invitee list. Ford is single. His job description never included a vow to eschew all types of fun. No congressional activity requiring his presence was ongoing during the time of said party. So why was it a problem?

It wasn’t. It was a simply a situation presented in isolation so as to manipulate the potential voter away from considering all the things about Ford that he or she may have liked. It was an effort to get the voter to focus on one relatively meaningless episode and to characterize that episode as representative of the man’s life, even though it clearly isn’t. I cannot imagine that I would be welcome in much of America if the only thing considered about me is that I am an admitted acquaintance of a convicted serial killer.

Locally, Scott West has admitted to being a small part of a large-scale marijuana sales organization. That he used the ill-gotten profits for purposes that were good for the city, rather than on sports cars and breast enhancement surgery for a stable of girlfriends, seems to not matter at all.

The fact is that before, during, and after not just the bust, but the entire period he was involved, he was aggressive and active in supporting efforts to revitalize the downtown (and in doing so, enhance the tax base). His affable nature and efforts to consistently make quality entertainment available at his pub, among other attributes, all goes by the wayside as we decide simply that he is a criminal and that’s all there is to the story.

For as many folks in this town, region, and nation who claim Christianity as a religion, it is pretty amazing how many are willing to completely ignore that whole “do unto others...” thing that Christ was allegedly pretty fond of. Of course, I suppose I could be wrong.  I suppose that all of you could think that you have lived your lives in such a fashion that any single event of your lives could be used to judge you and you are comfortable with that. To which I reply, yeah right, Ted Haggard.