I'm pretty sure if you dig into the past of virtually every human being on this planet you'll find some kind of truly objectionable behavior. At one time or another most of us have been something less than admirable. This is especially true of us when we're young. Young people are rarely noted for their sensitivity to the feelings of others and they seldom take the time to consider the consequences of what they're about to do.
For most of us that's hardly significant. For one thing, over time we tend to forget the dumb or regrettable things we do. For another, inevitably the people we've grown up with have either forgotten our past indiscretions too or they're just too kind and sensitive to constantly remind us of it. However, should we decide to run for public office, then it's a whole other ball game. Then, every aspect of our lives, past and present, is put under a microscope and thoroughly examined. If a reporter or a political opposition researcher digs long enough and hard enough chances are they're going to uncover a significant piece of dirt about our behavior. The question we have to wrestle with is, to what degree should we be held responsible for our past actions, particularly long past.
To a certain extent I suppose you could say I'm referencing Governor Northam of Virginia. But I think to a certain extent this applies to everyone in public life. Yes, the fact that Ralph Northam posed in black face at a party 35 years ago was both stupid and incredibly insensitive. You can even call it racist if that floats your boat. But I have to wonder if Ralph Northam's racism of 1984 applies to the man who is Governor of Virginia today? Are those calling for his resignation now saying, in effect, that once a racist, ALWAYS a racist? Are they willing to concede that it is at least possible that a young student in his 20's at a party where alcohol may have flowed in copious amounts might have done something stupid that does not NOW reflect the man's present state of mind? Or do his present day critics contend that he has committed the unforgivable sin?
No one in this life is perfect. Every one of us might very well have blurted out a hurtful word in anger, innocence or good old fashioned insensitivity. Does that mean that we ALL should be permanently barred from public service? I hope not. If Ralph Northam donned black face out of a genuinely racist turn of mind that certainly is a serious breach of conduct. But does that mean that Ralph Northam is a racist now? Has there been anything found in his present conduct that would indicate that he harbors racists sentiments TODAY? From all indications, that's just not so.
It is always disappointing to discover that someone we have come to admire has feet of clay, that they don't live up to the high standard of conduct that we have placed on them. This is especially true if we discover the person we admire is presently modeling such behavior. But the question we must face as we evaluate the conduct of our present day office holders is how long should we harbor such disappointment. Forever?
From news reports on Donald Trump's past personal and business behavior, there are indications that he definitely harbored racial prejudice. For this he has been criticized and his prejudice condemned. But if the President's negative attitude on issues of race was limited to his dim, dark past, then it is essentially irrelevant. The problem with President Trump's racism is that it is an ongoing phenomenon and is just as much a part of his makeup today as it has ever been. And that's the point. I don't know Ralph Northam personally so I don't know if he's a closet racist today or not. It's possible. But there's been nothing reported about his recent behavior that would indicate that he is a closet hater. So while I will continue to call into question our President's racial attitudes of the moment, I believe I have to give Governor Northam the benefit of the doubt. It seems to me the best way to handle his situation is to forgive but never forget!
Filed under: Politics