"None but the well-bred man knows how to confess a fault, or acknowledge himself in an error."
We had finished dinner at the restaurant where my son and his family treated me to a birthday feast, when my young granddaughter grabbed my hand and said, "Come, I show you sumpin'." My longer legs could hardly keep up with her stubby ones as she pulled me toward our side-by-side cars in the parking lot.
"I did it!" she said, pointing to a sizable gouge in my freshly painted car door. "Sorry."
"I'll fix it!" her equally sorry -- and embarrassed -- Daddy said. "She was in such a hurry to get inside to see you that she threw open our door and walloped yours."
Aw, what grandmother is going to wallop an offending grandchild after an honest explanation like that?Meanwhile, according to former Newsweek columnist Meg Greenfield in a piece called "Anti-Role Models," looking at the chaos in Washington today keeps her from saying to the young, "This is who and what you should aspire to be." Rather, she would tell them, "This is what life will be like for you if you follow the low tone of the times...."
Greenfield then concludes that she could never aspire to a life of crime because she didn't have the energy required to guard against the constant threat of discovery.
"It's exhausting just to think about it," she says of the atmosphere where certain political candidates and public officials are "absolutely levitated with anxiety about personal and political outcomes."
I've wondered about that myself: arthritis setting into your neck from too much looking over your shoulder, encrypting every phone conversation in case yours or the other party's line is bugged, and dashing to catch every new shoe before it drops.
But energy aside, think of the expense. If you can believe half the reports about lost records, paid informers -- or hush money not to inform -- and a Himalayan-sized mountain chain of legal and consulting fees, that's enough money to shut down the IRS and retire the national debt besides. Like Greenfield, this ordinary, thoroughly non-wealthy citizen would have to agree: "No life of crime for me, either."
Actually, besides the energy and expense, as you can tell, I'm not smart enough for a life of crime. Whenever anyone asks why I'm not a real writer -- novels, steamy stories, etc. -- I have to reply that I don't lie well enough to write fiction, to which my insulted, fiction-writing friends usually reply, "You mean, you don't have a good enough imagination to write fiction."
Whatever. Making up stories -- lying to my parents, etc. -- just never worked for me.
I'm not alone. A friend once confessed she would have killed another friend's cheating husband for her, but her memory was so poor she knew she couldn't keep her lies straight, and she thought she owed it to her kids to stay out of jail.
The little nick in my car door is easy to forgive, as is almost any infraction sincerely and immediately confessed by an adult as well as a child. (Did he or didn't he show up for National Guard duty...incur or fake his injuries in Vietnam?) I can only hope my granddaughter continues her "I-did-it" lifestyle long after her Daddy's touch-up paint jobs stop atoning for her sins.
I'm not sure I have the same optimism for those who are stalling, stonewalling, spin-doctoring and anything but confessing their past records and current actions in Washington or on the campaign trail.
We can only hope our aspiring national leaders or their "handlers" will start writing a little more non-fiction, and leave the novels and steamy stories to those "real" writers whose imagination is meant only to entertain, not sicken and consume those who would much rather "read" something else.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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