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Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Epidemic of Liars and the Creation of a Shameless Society

Chances are, when you were a kid, your parents and adults in general taught you to tell the truth. We all grew up with the “Honest Abe” stories and George Washington’s cherry tree.  Looking back, we were some amazingly gullible little suckers. 

But what the heck did we know? I ate that stuff up with a spoon. Now, I’m one of the more cynical people you’ll run into. What can I say? Life just does that to you sometimes.

What led people forty or fifty years ago to hang their heads in shame: infidelity, divorce, children born out of wedlock, boorish behavior in public, skipping out on debts -- has given way to an “anything for fame” mentality: sex tapes, steroids in sports, cheating, sexting, boldface lying. Hey, just give me my fifteen minutes of fame.

For better or worse, many of us tend to receive our cues on how to behave from business leaders, politicians and celebrities. One would presume that positive parental guidance figures in there somewhere as well.

Over the last 10 to 15 years especially, we have been inundated with a steady diet of liars, reality TV personalities and media-driven scandals that make me wonder what affect this is having on our society as a whole.

The recent scandal involving U.S. congressional representative Anthony Weiner is simply the latest in a very long list of public indiscretions featuring famous figures that we’ve been treated to: U.S. Senator John Edwards, President Bill Clinton, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Idaho Senator Larry Craig, former mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick, Richard Heene (balloon boy hoax), Congressman Gary Condit, Ponzi kingpin Bernie Madoff, former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, and baseball great Barry Bonds.

You know, sometimes you just get caught. That’s life. The adult thing to do is simply own up to it, take your medicine and move on. But for whatever reason: ego, hubris, folk’s today just refuse to give up the ghost even when caught dead to rights.  You know what they say; usually it’s not the act that gets you in so much trouble. It’s the cover-up.

With all of this bad behavior on full display I can’t help but wonder if regular folks feel that they’re being given the green light to: cheat on their taxes, lie about speeding tickets, sneak around on their spouses, lie under oath, steal from others, etc.  After all, if our “leaders” can do it, why can’t I?

I’m no prude but I am wise enough to recognize the value of shame.  Shame is a valuable commodity to have in a family, within neighborhoods, the workplace or within the country as a whole. Shame should serve as a deterrent to the flaunting of deviant behavior. With no shame, there’s almost no limit to what a person will do. I don’t expect perfect behavior from anybody, but once caught, don’t make it worse by pleading innocence.

I’m not naïve enough to think that prominent people telling lies is new. What is new is the influx of social media, reality TV, low-class talk shows, tabloid TV shows that have merged to create a toxic concoction abhorrent behavior all in the pursuit of a ratings bonanza.

What ever happened to “You do the crime, you do the time?”
There is a decided lack of shame in this country today.

Ultimately, what long-range affect do you think this environment of lying, cheating and shameless behavior will have on America?

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