Saturday, April 02, 2005

I've Never Done This Before

Police here clock a motorcyclist going 150 mph as he tries to elude pursuit. Once arrested, he is discovered to be a volunteer police reserve officer. One of his colleagues professes surprise: "He's an outstanding reserve officer. This is very out of character."

A former national Boy Scouts of America official collects and distributes kiddie porn when he isn't busy chairing the BSA's Youth Protection Task Force. A spokeman expresses shock and dismay. "Smith was employed by the Boy Scouts for 39 years and we had no indication of prior criminal activity."

A trail of computer records implicates a tribal leader's son in planning the shootings at Red Lake. Like thousands of fathers and mothers every year, this father says, "I know my son and he is incapable of committing such an act."

A couple struggles toward divorce. There are no microphones, but if there were, the quote would be: "This isn't like her. She's acting like a different person."

Then there's the alleged Pat O'Brien voice messages, which are easy enough to Google, so let's preserve linkless dignity here and go to the Cliff's Notes. In what appears to be a series of short drunken calls to the cell phone of a woman across the bar, O'Brien pleads crudely and repetitiously for the woman to join him and his girlfriend in the usual limited menu of of porn film possibilities.

To those of us who don't go to bars with our girlfriends and try to pick up other women — even women who have shared their cell phone numbers — several aspects of the calls are striking. First is their utter lack of persuasiveness or imagination. Apparently Pat needs a scriptwriter even in real life. Second is this odd aside: "I don't do this for a living. It's like new to me."

This time the disclaimer comes from the transgressor's mouth, as he pretends to examine his behavior and portray himself as momentarily and uncharacteristically overcome — overcome, I say — by the object of his passion.

Of course, it is a lie. It is the lie told by the steroid-bulked sports stars and the ones with the women on the side. By Sandy Berger caught destroying secret documents and by intelligence bureaucrats ignoring them. By Michael Jackson and by people trying to get Michael Jackson's money. By every politician and CEO who says what he knows his constituencies expect to hear, instead of what he knows is true.

Everyone has told a lie or three, but at some point you cross from telling a lie to living one. At some point, the person only you know can become the one the world knows, and the "I've never done this before" defense won't get you off. It starts with the lies you tell yourself.

So though I rail at hypocrites and take some satisfaction in their exposure, their downfall reminds me to nudge my own inner demon. Still sleeping?

Good.

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