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Celebrities, politicians, and media use euphemisms as handy deflections to questions they don’t want to answer or don’t know how to answer or don’t want to answer in historically understood moral categories. These euphemisms pass for excuses or even erudition, but they don’t really offer anything substantive and can be misleading or downright wrong.

Consider these:

  • I was lucky.

This comment is regularly made by entertainment stars on late night TV talk shows or by sports figures when they are asked about their success. In an effort to sound, or maybe to give them the benefit of the doubt to actually be, humble, the accomplished star does not say, I am great (unless they are Muhammad Ali); I am enormously talented; I worked hard and by hook and crook clawed my way to the top; I am blessed – especially not this one because this implies there is a God who distributes talent and grace and admitting this in public media isn’t politically correct. 

Problem is, taken at face value, this means that the star is saying I did nothing, I have no talent, did not work hard, and am not responsible for anything I’ve accomplished. Pretty bleak view of themselves, humanity, and existence. It’s all dumb, blind fate.

  • I just want her/him to be happy. 

This comment usually comes when a former spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend has left the person behind. Or it comes when parents hear of their son or daughter’s decision to pursue some odd sexual expression. 

Problem is, does the person’s happiness trump all other considerations?

  • I’m not really religious but I’m a very spiritual person. 

The celebrity making this statement may be honest or may just be dodging the deeper meaning of a question, but either way, the idea is that it’s not really socially kosher anymore to be overtly religious, but it’s apparently OK to be “spiritual.”

Problem is, spiritual can mean anything and nothing.

  • He’s/She’s dealing with his/her demons. 

This is a frequent media comment when some celebrity or politician has gone off the deep end but the media doesn’t want or know how to talk about the person’s choices in moral terms. Certainly, sin is not in the mix, so a reference is made to demons.

Problem is, demons can mean anything and in particular can mean that whatever is going awry in the person’s life, it’s not her or his fault. It’s the demons. So, this is a great way to duck accountability and blame something, anything but one’s own moral choices.

  • Mistakes were made. 

This is the time-honored non-apology-apology. It’s a way of saying something so it sounds like you took responsibility but in actuality you did not take responsibility. Corporate CEOs say this when their company is struggling with a bad product; celebrities and especially politicians say this when they want to sort-of-own-but-not-own bad press. 

Problem is, who made the mistakes? The person saying this rarely says I made mistakes. And if what happened was actually a mistake, then it perhaps was without intent or culpability, so you blame frail humanity. This may be accurate. Humans are frail and we make mistakes. But usually, this comment isn’t referencing actual mistakes. It is referencing premeditated choices. Someone acted and knew what and why they were doing what they were doing. This is not a mistake. It is willful forethought with intent.

  • Just have faith.

This comment is a favorite of celebrities on late night TV.  It’s an all-purpose way of providing some kind of optimism and sometimes the full phrase is “Just have faith in yourself.”

Problem is, faith in what? Faith is as good as what it trusts. Faith in yourself may be good pop-psychology and perhaps helpful self-confidence, but as a religious or moral philosophy capable of dealing with life’s greatest challenges, it’s a non-starter.

  • I have to follow my heart.

This celebrity comment is sometimes presented as “You can’t help who you love,” which usually references some sexually progressive idea, i.e., I am pansexual, or I cheated on my wife because, well, I had to.

Problem is, once again, this comment seeks to side-step individual responsibility because it is saying that somehow the person is doing what they are doing and can’t help doing so.

Euphemisms may not all be bad or wrong. Saying someone “passed away” rather than he or she “died” is often used to soften the sad news. But euphemisms that obscure and deflect accountability ultimately do not serve the speaker well, let alone anyone else.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I've met a few people in my life who've claimed, cluelessly I think, that like Popeye, "I yam what I yam." Sounds cool, but it's baloney, especially if it's a masquerade for faults that could be addressed. No one is changeless but God, who by the way doesn't need to change. But we, human beings, are a work-in-progress. We often need to change, to grow, to become, and the good news is: we can.

Here's more on the issue:

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Betrayal is something that's part of life for some people in a world gone awry. For others, betrayal is not so common, but it can rear its ugly head.

I think I've experienced betrayal, albeit in the scheme of things not nearly as threateningly or severely as others. But at whatever level of intensity, betrayal is usually shocking. We don't expect it, especially from people close to us, and it hurts or angers or embitters.

So how should we respond if we feel betrayed? And how do we avoid betraying others? Here's my perspective:

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno died at 85 years of age, January 22, 2012. Despite his long and enormously successful life his demise leaves us with a sense of something unfinished.

After 46 seasons as head coach at one university and 409 NCAA Division I football victories, the most on record, you wouldn’t think people would think “What if?” But they do.

Paterno’s last season in fall 2011 was marred by horrible allegations of sexual abuse against boys perpetrated over several years by former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was accused of acting legally but minimally (after he’d heard about the allegation from an assistant coach who says he witnessed an incident of Sandusky’s abuse of a 10 year old boy in a PSU football locker room shower). Paterno is accused of not doing enough morally and of being ultimately responsible. So November 9, 2011, Paterno was summarily fired as head football coach.

No matter how you slice this story it is sad, egregiously so. It is heart wrenching for the number of youthful victims of perverted sex. It is sad for their families then and now. It’s sad for a university that, though clearly culpable through the inactions and misdirection of its administrators—or perhaps also for allowing a culture of invincibility to develop around a sport—is still largely peopled by individuals whose interest is in learning and in the other good things that come from a school with this level of quality. There’s more than enough blame and collateral damage to go around.

It’s sad for Joe Paterno and his family. Sure, there are those who say they don’t care, that Paterno deserves all he got and more, and that nothing compares to the hurts of the real victims. Who can disagree at least with the last point?

But if Paterno, based on what we know now, is responsible for leadership. “The buck stops here,” Harry Truman said, than how does this play out? Do we dismiss as meaningless Paterno’s life of consistent integrity and investment in young men? If Paterno were a participant in the abuse, I’d say “Yes.” But given that he was not, that he reported what he’d heard to his superiors, and that he trusted them to do their jobs, I’d say “No.” It’s not justifiable to denigrate Paterno or his accomplishments beyond the right/wrong of his sins of omission in this case.

I’m not saying this because I’m a football fan or a Paterno fan, per se. I’m saying this because I think accountability and certainly retribution should fit the indiscretion or failure. Paterno failed for not getting it, for not going ballistic on Sandusky or PSU administrators, for not calling the police.

But he did not, as far as we know at this time, commit a crime, hurt children, or act dishonorably, even when the PSU Board made Paterno the scapegoat and gutlessly and tactlessly fired him by phone.

I am glad the A.D., a V.P., and the President were all fired. They deserved it because they did not act on information given to them. They may have covered up. Paterno did neither. And I’d say that if the buck stops at the top, some of the Board leadership should also go. They handled the crisis poorly at best.

So for all Paterno’s legitimate football achievements, for all his admirable coaching impact upon a long list of known and little known people, for all that’s amazing and good in his story, his death leaves business unfinished. He departs with questions hovering in the air. He leaves us wondering what he would have said and what he yet could have contributed to the trial that is to come for Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno goes to his reward with us wishing he’d been able to stay around a little longer and help us make sense of a tragedy. It’s not about his legacy, as he would have said, but about finding truth and justice that can begin to make us whole again.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

It won't be cyborgs or some other-worldly yet-unknown entity that'll overcome us someday. It'll be our "Stuff." It's all the, well, stuff, that we keep, save, forget about, and allow to have birthdays in our over-"stuffed" closets, attics, basements, garages, and temporary storage units out by the interstate.

Comedian George Carlin has gone to his reward, but he's well-remembered for an ingenious riff on "Stuff." Thing is, though, he never looked at stuff other than as things we own that soon own us.

But for some of us who are really "stuffed," holding onto things far past their usefulness is a matter of our worldview. It gets back to what we think about life, things, security, and wellbeing. "Stuff," after all, is a philosophic matter.

Here are a few more thoughts about "Stuff" and what to do with it.

 

Stuff-overload is something I've called being "suffocated." It's an avoidable malady.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

In the midst of the Congressman Anthony Weiner episode I heard a news channel commentator argue Rep. Weiner got into his sexting scenario because he was a “driven personality.” The commentator went on to suggest that certain personality types were more open to affairs and more likely to get caught with their pants down because of how they’re wired. In other words, the commentator attempted to explain Rep. Weiner’s behavior in psychological terms.

Later, I heard other news pundits reach for psychological constructs and language to explain why a spate of political and other leaders have gotten themselves into sex scandals. To hear these people tell it, these men can all be seen coming down the walk if we just know what to look for in their instincts for leadership. To prove their points the pundits trot out all the examples that seem to fit their hypotheses: FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, et al.

I don’t doubt psychological issues influence people. While I don’t believe in determinism I do believe Nature, which is to say our environmental background, helps form and affect us. I also believe in the influence of Nurture, the set of values we’re taught, internalize, and choose to live by. I don’t believe anyone is simply a product of his or her chemicals or social wiring.

It seems to me, the real issue with Congressman Weiner, the recently resigned shirtless Congressman Chris Lee, and a host of others is that these men made choices. Their problems are not for the most part psychological but moral, which is to say spiritual. They live in a society that is much more open to men or women making sexually immoral choices than it was in the days of JFK, much less FDR. They are living in the post-Clinton era when sex is something one does that’s somehow outside the boundaries of who you are and what your responsibilities may be.

I don’t know Congressman Weiner, but I can say with reasonable certainty that he has a sin problem. Not “personal demons” outside his control. Not some victimhood reaching back to his youth. But a series of choices on his part to follow his sexual urges wherever they may lead, even after his recent marriage. He admitted to 6 women, which experiences tell us means there are likely several more. Rep. Weiner isn’t acting beyond his control. He is doing exactly what he wanted to do, even if now he regrets being caught.

He said he loves his wife but not enough to discontinue his immoral and highly risky activity. He said, “It’s a private matter,” yet he’s a Congressman who wants to be known and respected and influential. He said he did not break the law, which is as vacuous as the old “There’s no controlling legal authority” argument Al Gore used to cover his poor choices.

Congressman Weiner and virtually all the others we’ve heard about reaching back a few months, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzeneggrer, Mark Sanford, James E. McGreevey, John Ensign, David Vitter, Larry Craig, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, many more in politics, sports, entertainment, corporate, even religion, are individuals who have made wrong choices. They aren’t psychologically impaired. They’re spiritually disconnected from God and a morality that is good for them and everyone around them. This observation sounds judgmental, but actually, it’s kind.

Blaming our lifestyle on psychological wiring or chemistry, as media are inclined to do, suggests our lives are beyond our own influence. If this is true, we’re hopeless.

On the other hand, if a person is free to make wrong choices, i.e. sin, than he or she is free to make good or proper choices, i.e. act rightly or righteously, which is to say there is hope. There is hope for Congressman Weiner and all the other men listed herein who are still living, if they acknowledge their sin, repent, and walk differently.

If they did this it would take time to rebuild trust with spouses, family, the public, if indeed some ever trusted them again. In most cases, they would lose their current opportunity to lead. But in time, many people would trust them again because human beings are more forgiving than they’re usually given credit.

It all depends on the one in the middle, in this case, Anthony Weiner. If he buys into the idea he’s a victim or the idea he’s controlled by forces beyond his influence, he’s toast. If he owns his behavior and chooses a different path, there’s hope.

What’s causing so many leaders to have affairs? Not their personality type but sin, their choices to chase what they want when they want it no matter the consequences.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.