Bits and Pieces

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Let He Who Is Without Blame...

Mark Hasty over at The Bemusement Park made me think:

I do not give a flying fig what John Kerry may or may not have done with his medals thirty years ago. I also don't care if George Bush was AWOL back in his Air National Guard days. I have come to decide that, strictly speaking, nobody deserves to be president--but somebody has to be. And I could not possibly care less what that person was like when they were in their twenties. We've had exactly two presidents in my lifetime who were morally qualified for the job, and they both bombed (Ford and Carter). Give me a lying, cheating, backstabbing clod any day of the week--they actually get things done.

And then a post that James Joyner just put up:

John O'Neill has delivered the promised "Kerry is unfit" argument, which is the WSJ op-ed page's Featured Article today. As expected, it has nothing to do with Kerry's service in Vietnam and everything to do with his anti-war protests afterward.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, made me think. Er... Oh yeah -

I'm 22 years old. This time about two years ago I had a fairly severe gambling problem. I won £4,000 in one night (not a problem), but lost £3,000 the following night (problem). Sure, I was £1,000 up, but overall I'm down over the lifetime. My gambling went on from the age of 18-22, and cost me thousands.

About 5 years ago I almost failed college after getting confused and missing an important biology exam. I was in bed.

3 years ago I failed an entire year at university, and had to stay behind an extra year to get my degree.

I've lied. I've cheated. Hell, I've even stolen. But I'm not a bad person. In fact, I think I'm a pretty decent person. I've learned from my many mistakes and come out clean on the other side.

What I mean to say is that if we are going to get in the habit of judging people by what they did in their youth then I might as well give up life now. Game over. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Not one person reading this can claim to have lived a blameless life. We've all done stupid things in the past, be it 'borrowing' your dad's car, doing drugs, throwing away your medals in a fit of idealistic pique, or skipping National Guard duties.

What matters is who we are today, not who we were decades ago. I'm sure if you met the 'you' of your youth you'd have a strong desire to punch him in the nose. I'd like to knock some sense into the 20 year-old me, and that was only 2 years ago (but he was in better shape than me, so he'd probably hit back).

To judge a man on who he was in his youth is to ignore all that he has learned in the ensuing years. You are judging a different person, a person half the man he is today. So what kind of person is Bush today? What about Kerry? You? Me? I don't think I have any right to cast stones, and I'm fairly sure you're the same. Let's stop arguing about the past. It's a fight none of us can win.
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