Sunday, November 20, 2016

Getting One's Reputation Back

Raymond J. Donovan was Secretary of Labor during Ronald Reagan's first term in office. Donovan and several of his business associates were caught up in a criminal investigation of their part in an allegedly fraudulent transaction dealing with the building of a new rail line into New York City. During the ensuing trial the men were portrayed in harsh and sinister terms and assumed to be guilty. But when the case went to the jury all defendants were acquitted of all charges. When Donovan emerged from the court room and faced the bank of cameras and reporters he famously asked: "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?"

Our recent election has been a bruising affair. Mr. Trump has left a trail of battered opponents whom he has maligned unmercifully, and usually untruthfully. Hillary Clinton was attacked during the campaign, as she has been over the length of her political career, with accusations, most of which were patently false or, at best, not subject to verification. And even Donald Trump himself had to endure his share of slings and arrows, though in most cases, he invited public scrutiny unfavorable to his own reputation.

So now that the election is over, where do these people – most of them very decent, patriotic, and basically honest people – go to get their reputations back? Will those who started the ruinous rumors publicly admit that they were fabrications, not facts? Will those who mindlessly – or in too many cases maliciously – passed on such garbage now tell or e-mail those they spread the lies to that they were indeed lies? Or does the nation walk away from these whose character has been assaulted as though it doesn't matter at all? When the next election rolls around do we simply pick up where this one left off, manufacturing half-truths and outright, pants-on-fire lies that serve only the purpose of destroying someone's good name?

Most importantly, can truth ever make a comeback in our society that values winning at any cost more than truth? Every person who fashions himself a lover and defender of truth must, at the very least, vow never again to become the hewer of wood and the carrier of water for political assassins.

It has long been prophesied that America will not fall to an external enemy but that it will be destroyed by the evils we allow to exist in ourselves. The rot is almost complete. The timbers are sagging. The structure is groaning under a weight of immoralities, not the least of which are our inability to tell or recognize the truth; our unwillingness to see in our opponent humanity and good will; our maniacal desire to have things go our way regardless of the cost to ourselves or our community.

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