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Principle #2 - People Are Flawed (Part II)

As noted, people are flawed. They are neither infallible nor completely altruistic.

Lord Acton famously wrote, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Think about that next time you want the federal government to step in and "fix" something.


By the way, Lord Acton's less-quoted next sentence is even more jolting: "Great men are almost always bad men." Again, keep that in mind whenever you want to hand more power to the White House.


Remember: Presidents and Congress turn over. You might completely (and naively?) trust the incumbent you voted for, but what about her/his successor? Once you’ve handed more of your life to Washington, the precedent is set - and it is virtually impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.


On the Other Hand - Sort Of

Having said that, because people are flawed, we need to cut them some slack. First, don't ask them (or even allow them) to take on too much. Second, in your personal life, show forgiveness. Third - and this is the key here - don't trash everything they are associated with as soon as one of their flaws becomes evident.

"Uh, ok. Sure. Um ... wait - What are you talking about?"


I’m talking about this: our new national pastime is digging up dirt on everyone. As an example, let’s say someone randomly saves an old lady from being hit by a car. Let's further assume someone caught it on video. It gets posted. Goes viral. The person becomes an insta-hero. Within 48 hours, the trolls dig into absolutely everything about the person. They inevitably find that the person has done something dumb in their past (because, like everyone, they are flawed). That mistake goes viral. And their life is ruined - for doing something good. Sickening.

On a broader scale, we are now doing this to historic figures. We are doing a deep dive on them and finding them to be ... wait for it ... human. And to make matters worse, we are ignorantly judging their behavior based on our current mores-of-the-moment, often without any empathy for or understanding of the situation they were in. All by itself, that is shallow and stupid. But, more importantly, we then throw the baby out with the bath water. That is, we conclude that one individual's frailties instantly invalidate everything they ever said or did or were associated with.


We are trashing our (on the whole) beautiful American heritage on this basis. Armchair, Monday-morning quarterbacks are finding flaws in our past and generalizing that America is, well, invalid.


A better read of the imperfect history we Americans share is how amazing it turned out, given the raw material it had. That is, a disparate group of flawed human beings struggling through bad, sometimes awful, circumstances to build something Lincoln called the “the last, best hope of Earth.”


Learning from past mistakes and evils is imperative - maybe more now than ever. But those who categorically trash our history and destroy our institutions based on our imperfect past are shallow, ignorant and have no appreciation - in either sense of the word.


Teddy Roosevelt, who, btw, was not perfect, said,


It is not the critic who counts; not the man ["see - right there - he's a gender-exclusive misogynist"] who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


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