Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ready, set, conclusions...

I was on vacation last week. It was nice - didn't have to work, didn't have to cook, didn't have to do dishes. I had plenty of time to just sit and veg. That was good; I needed the relaxation. It's been a fairly stressful couple of years since I was last able to get out of town. But it was bad, too, becasue there was plenty of time to read the papers and watch the television, including the news.

Lots of strange stuff going on in the world, and I heard all about it. Even broke my usual rules and watched a high-speed chase...I'm not sure why they cover those things live in Los Angeles, but they do. I would hope that anyone affected by the chase wouldn't be actually watching the reports of it while they are driving. I think maybe I watched because earlier in the week, as I neared my destination, I managed to inadvertently drive into the middle of some kind of police action and almost got hit head-on by a police car. No lights, no siren, no nothing...just pedal to the metal driving down the wrong side of the street. So, my perceptions of such chases are a little different now. Also, they were chasing someone who was very ambitious. He didn't just weave around the surface streets or go freeway hopping. Instead, he headed north, over the Grapevine into the San Joaquin Valley. At night, with all the truck traffic, on Interstate 5, which has one stretch that is so severly downhill that they provide escape ramps for trucks that lose their brakes, because that's the only way to get them stopped if there is any traffic in the way at all.

Anyway, strange was the byword of the week in the news. Should have figured it would was full moon during that period of time. There were two stories, both of which had started earlier but which still had what the news business calls legs. One was the drunk-driving arrest of actor Mel Gibson and his ensuing tirade, which allegedly included both sexist and anti-Semitic rantings. The other was the ongoing controversy over Tour de France winner Floyd Landis's alleged doping during this year's competition. When those stories first entered the news, I figured neither one of them would be more than a three-day wonder. We should have been so lucky. The ongoing nature of both show more than anything, I think, how eager most people are to jump to conclusions in the absence of any sure knowledge of the circumstances of a particular event.

I don't know if Floyd Landis took synthetic testosterone before his big comback day near the end of the Tour. I wasn't there. Two tests of that day's urine sample say that he did. He says he didn't. I think that the jury is still out. But it amazed me how often I heard comments that he must be guilty, because the tests don't lie. Well...maybe they do and maybe they don't. But it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that there were other ways for that substance to get into his urine sample than for him to have deliberately taken a banned substance. Someone could have slipped it in something he ate or drank. Someone could have slipped it into the samples after they were taken. I'm sure there is security around the samples the riders are required to give, but security, as we all know in this age of terrorism, can be gotten around. In any case, as I understand it the substance that was found in the samples is something that must be taken for a period of time in order to have any effect on performance, and as far as I've heard, his earlier samples did not test positive. So, I can't quite figure out why he would have taken it then. He doesn't strike me as an excessively stupid person. Still, much of the commentary I've heard just jumps to the conclusion that Landis is a cheater. Not sure I understand that, either.

And then there's Mel Gibson.

I don't have any idea whether or not he is anti-Semitic...there doesn't seem to be much discussion of whether he is a sexist or not, based on his other reported statements the night he was arrested, but I guess anti-Semitism trumps sexism or something. I don't think either position is ethically tenable, but that's just me. Apparently, he was raised by an anti-Semitic father, which could predispose him to such attitudes. On the other hand, several people who know him well have insisted publicly that he is not anti-Semitic at all. Still, so many of the commentators have dragged out the old saying "in vino veritas" or however it goes (my Latin is a little rusty at the moment), that statements made while inebriated show the true feelings of the one making them. It has been my experience, however, that a lot of the things that a lot of people say while drunk don't have any relation to that person's real feelings or attitudes. Either way, the fact remains that none of those professional pundits who have been so quick to condemn Gibson are in a position to know his mind or his heart on that or any other subject. Still, they don't have any problem jumping to the conclusion that Gibson is a horrible, evil person who should never be allowed to pursue a living again.

All I can do is sit back and shake my head and wonder why people are so eager to think the worst of people. And why they seem even more eager to believe the worst of someone who is successful at what they do. It is almost as if there is the belief out there that anyone who is successful must have lied, cheated, or stole their way to their success. While I know that such is the case in some instances, even I'm not cynical enough to think that everyone who has ever been successful at anything is an evil human being.

And, God knows I'm pretty might have noticed that here before.

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