Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Elliot Spitzer Scandal - Why is Greta Angry?

During Greta Van Susteren's (Fox News) reporting of the Elliot Spitzer scandal, she stated that although some reporters had expressed some sympathy for Spitzer, she felt none for the man she has known for over 20 years. She couldn't quite put her finger on why, but she said she felt not only disappointed, but angry. She may not be able to nail down the root cause, but I think I can.

I don't know Van Susteren personally, but having observed her dogged pursuit of the truth and the way that she conducts her program, I believe she is a genuinely good person. That is, someone who has determined right from wrong and who strives to do right, all the time. Spitzer had a public image that was much the same. he was seen as the "Elliot Ness" of modern times; uncorruptable, untouchable; a champion of the truth.

Role models like these are important because a genuinely good person is so, not because they seek some eternal reward, but because after long hard analysis, they've determined it is the best way to operate. It's the manner of dealing with one another that, in the long term, will lead to a better quality of life for everyone. It's both self-serving and in the interest of the general good.

On the other hand, there are those who would have you believe that the existence of "genuinely good" people is a myth; that we are all "sinners". This notion serves a sinister end. Once you are convinced that you can't trust your own judgement, you are much more likely to defer that judgement to someone or something else. It may be the state, society, religion, whatever, the important thing is that YOU the individual can not be trusted. This is the environment in which bad guys thrive.

The revelations about Spitzer serve to reinforce the notion that there are no "good guys". It provides cover for those who are not celebrities to let their guard down and make choices that serve short-term comfort, desire and convenience at the expense of their own long-term good and consequently, that of others. After all, if the great Elliot Spitzer can't live up to the standards he professed, what chance do you or I have?

There are those who are aware that the myth here is not that good people don't exist, but that Elliot Spitzer was one of them. He kept up a front for political expediency and that front has been breached. Good people know for a fact that it is possible to weigh right and wrong and choose right and to be aware of such choices all the time. They know it because they do it, every day. This doesn't mean they are infallable. It is possible to miscalculate and make the wrong choice, but this is not the same as conscioulsy choosing to do wrong. It's also possible that two good people can come to different conclusions as to what the right choice is. Again, this is not the same as deliberately taking action that is in conflict with your own core philosophical and stated beliefs.

I think this is why Greta is angry. Leading by example is hard work and it takes a long time to make an impression and convince people to engage in long-term thinking. Events like the Spitzer scandal set such efforts back by suggesting that it's a fruitless effort. Spitzer is obviously intelligent and capable of determining right from wrong. He said himself that he knew what he did was wrong. A man who appeared to be an ally in the fight for truth, justice and the American way turned out to be a double-agent, working for the other side. Truth was betrayed and betrayal stings.

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