I‘ve always wondered about the ability of an American public figure to recover from a mistake. I suppose there are tons of stories in popular culture about people given second chances, but convicted felons can’t vote – even after they’ve paid their debt to society – and Jimmy Swaggart will always have credibility issues. Of course, President Bush was doing just fine even after admitting that his original reasons for going to war in Iraq could no longer be considered applicable. I wonder how far his approval ratings will plummet when everybody figures out his administration was warned about the severity of Hurricane Katrina.
Society is filled with sayings like “honesty is the best policy,” “thou shalt not lie” and “the truth will set you free.” But, really, how much does society value truth? How much does our campus even value the truth?
I have a friend who used to be a resident advisor. In an evaluation meeting with his supervisors, he confessed that there were many things he could improve upon in the course of associating with his hall and the rest of the residents of his building. After this evaluation, he was encouraged to sign an agreement, under the pressure of potentially being fired, stipulating that he follow through on making the improvements he had suggested. The arrangement seemed reasonable enough to me, although I had never heard of such an agreement being used.
As a result of signing this agreement, the RA had to deal with more harassment than any of his co-workers. He was constantly monitored by his supervisors, and he had to attend more individual meetings than any of his peers. Now, this RA was no worse than any other RA in University housing history – in fact, he was better than many I’ve come across. He just made the mistake of admitting his faults to the wrong people. While relaying this story to me, he made the comment: “I was always told not to admit my mistakes so I don’t give anyone any ammunition.” I could tell by his somber tone and wearied expression that he wished he had listened to that advice.
The story of that RA has just reinforced my lack of trust in people. In my 22 years, I have come across only a couple of social situations where I can freely admit mistakes and not have those admissions come back to haunt me. This may be par for the course in life, but it still bothers me a bit.
In my last column, I wrote about the uselessness of conversations about relationships. I mentioned how I didn’t gain anything from a particular dialogue about interracial dating, which is true. However, I failed to fully clarify why the conversation wasn’t productive. I mentioned that I hadn’t gained anything from the conversation because my dating preferences are already set, which is true. However, I failed to mention that I reached this conclusion after multiple conversations over the course of my life. Those conversations were the equivalent of the dialogue that I criticized. Actually, dialogue is a good thing – I’ll spare you the clich