Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher

Driving to work every morning, I tune in to NPR. In the past, I would listen to the stupid antics of local deejays to try to rouse myself from the half-conscious state of my non-morning person. NPR keeps me looped in to what’s going on in the world and the news early in the day. If I had time, I would read the Wall Street Journal daily because I firmly believe if you want to figure out what’s going to happen in current and future history, follow the money.

Radio turned up, this morning’s top story was on the debacle that is our governmental system in the form of one Alberto Gonzales. He has been facing intense cross-examinations regarding his role as White House counsel, particularly in memos that, critics believe, sanctioned the torture of terrorism suspects in Iraq and encouraged the detention of others at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. In addition, though he is not taking responsibility, all evidence points to his being very involved in the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys.

Throughout the day, he stayed in my mind, the ever present reminder of poor choices and not taking responsibility for actions. I can’t understand how he can sit there and be posed questions by the Senate to which it seems every response is, “I don’t know” or “I will have to check on that.” He’s either a loyal yes man or a very poor manager of his people. I do know he is a good liar and seems to be a desperate man. And this takes me into my latest lesson.

The business world and perhaps the world that belongs to adults provides ample examples of people setting out to cover their own asses and sacrifice those of their colleagues. Today, muttering under my breath, “Alberto Gonzales” helped keep me connected into who I can be today, that there is a choice involved even when I screw up. I can play the role of “I don’t know” or instead can take the riskier path of honesty. And so, I chose to not be Alberto Gonzales today, but instead to take what comes to me and accept responsibility along the way.
It is the harder path especially when you have made a wrong call, but it is the right thing.

Senator Arlen Specter was quoted as saying to Gonzalez, “Your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable” which is legalese for on the path to perjury. And yet, no smoothing of the road lies ahead since the president has taken the plight upon himself and intejected executive office protection (surely not helping his disapproval rating as it lies 1 point away from Nixon’s right before he resigned). As children, we are taught not to lie and then somehow over the years, what used to seem so difficult when young can become pardonable in our heads because of the “greater good” perhaps. White lies that can build one upon the other make for a poor advisory council. What I would like to see is for him to be honest in spite of what the cost will be. When you look at Alberto Gonzales’s humble roots, it is inspiring to see how far he has come. And unfortunately now, how far he will fall.

1 comment

  1. Interesting that you would post this on the day after I learned of the “moral indiscretion” of the man who was my youth pastor in the ’80’s. He founded the Church at Brook Hills in Alabama and was the chaplain for the Samford baseball team. Apparently, he’d had an ongoing affair with a woman since 1981, even though they’d only met up a handful of times in the last 25ish years, but as recently as last December. In the newspaper articles I read, the woman said that he called her, weeping and begging her not to ruin his ministry and his family, to which she replied that he had done that himself. In the church where I grew up, pastoral infidelity was practically a competitive sport. It was a mega church where the pastors had no accountabilty and many layers of bureaucracy between them and the people, so they could live on a pedestal and hide in plain sight.

    Both the community of faith and the ideal democratic society are intended to benefit the many, but these leaders have sought to bring power to the few, building empires for themselves instead of serving to build up the other. Much like Mr. Gonzales, this pastor lived under the illusion of imperviousness that comes with significant power. And also, like the attorney general, there is a very large thud when they are finally felled by the natural consequences of their own actions.

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