Sunday, June 26, 2011

Have We Become Weiner Roasted?

Ok, so now "former" Congressman Anthony Weiner has resigned. Big deal. He still walks away with a multimillion dollar pension for the years he spent in Congress. Is that right? Should someone who disgraced the office of Congress still be entitled to receive a pension package worth millions, and all funded by taxpayers?

Well, if we denied money to everyone who ever disgraced Congress, or for that matter, elected office, there would be damn few former (or even some current) representatives getting a penny, and perhaps that is would be a good thing. Taxpayers would save a boat load of money and maybe the wrongdoer wouldn't sleep so comfortably at night. Still, we need more than just another long drawn out pathetic "I'm innocent" story in the hopes of duping the public, usually followed by the well worn public apology and self imposed treatment center (I liken it to some misbehaved child's self imposed trip to the principal's office).

So, what it is with these people any way? Is it arrogance? Is it greed? Narcissism? Perhaps we should see them as victims of a increasingly hedonistic society. After all, look at many of professional athletes. They've been coddled since high school. They were often excused for bad behavior, bad grades and they've done alright. Hollywood is busting at the seams with stories of overlooked (or sometimes encouraged) bad behavior by pampered and usually mediocre actors and actresses. Their bank accounts look pretty good too. TV shows and video games resplendent with glorified "anti-hero" types. You don't even had to be an aspiring actor or athlete to have your bad behavior overlooked. You just have to be part of some media accepted misunderstood minority group whose "social values" doesn't correspond with the rest of society's. So, why not politicians? Why should they be held to higher standards of moral behavior when less is expected of the rest of society's role models?

The answer is, in my opinion, to be found in our recent past. There was a time when we could look up to certain individuals, like our pastors, teachers, judges, and yes, even to many of our elected officials. We had larger than life heroes like Audie Murphy, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G Robinson, James Cagney, Randolph Scott, Gregory Peck, and the list goes on. We could trust our teachers to actually teach our children, not seduce them. Discipline was expected in school. It wasn't a day care for young adults that it has now become. You studied. You learned. And you succeeded because of your efforts, not because you were failed up to the next grade to protect your self-esteem. Society thought it more important that you could read, write, do arithmetic at your grade level than being stupid and feeling good about it. There was nothing "cool" about poor grammar and purposefully mispronounced words; your underwear handing out, or infantile gestures.

People were expected to put in an honest day's work for a living wage. We can thank our grandparent's unions for that. They weren't afraid to strike for safe working conditions, an eight hour day or a realistic wage. But they weren't afraid to work for those concessions either. They didn't expect anyone to give them anything for free. It was called a work ethic. People didn't expect handouts. In fact, they were often ashamed to take them. Nowadays, there are many who "demand" that society support them. For some unexplained reason, they believed they are "entitled" to have others---usually taxpayers---pay their way. The same thing could be said about have children at 16 or even 14 and expecting their parents to raise their grandchildren. Back then, it was called taking personal responsibility for your actions. It was instilled at home; in the religious institutions of our choice; in school; and reinforced by society. Lying is almost common practice. Be it on your resume, to the police, to the judge, to parishioners, or to the media. The bigger the better. The longer the more coverage. The same goes with cheating.

If you messed up, you often went to prison. Prison was a place you didn't want to be, and you couldn't wait to get out. And you did your level best never to go back again. Prisoners didn't get their choice of meals. There was no "cafeteria" plan. You grew a lot of what you ate and was very grateful for anything else. There weren't any desserts. There were no televisions, radios, or stereos. There were no state of the art gyms. The only weightlifting was moving heavy rocks from spot to another. By the time you went back to your cell, all you wanted to do was sleep. Respect was something you gave the guards.

Much of that is gone today. Bad behavior is not just tolerated, but encouraged or even rewarded with multi-million dollar book deals, and countless media coverage and interviews (often paying interviews). Your "15 minutes of fame" could even land you a movie deal. It's no wonder individuals like Mr. Weiner act the way they do. Get caught; Lie about it for as long as possible; Confess and/or quit when finally you have to; Negotiate your own penalty and keep the money. It's a tired and true script for modern society, just "insert name here". We're long passed double standards, and are headlong into narcissism and greed as the society's norm; consequences be damned. It's all around us. Just turn on the TV, rent a movie, or pop in a video game. No doubt we'll be seeing the feature again. And don't forget the weiners.

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