The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Fessing up to responsibility


In our competitive world today, facing up to our failures isn’t a popular thing to do. Whether it is running for political office, applying for a new job, or searching for that special someone in the Personals, we are quick to hide our shortcomings while bludgeoning our target audience into submission with our successes and strengths. To a certain extent, I see this as acceptable. I don’t see a huge problem with omitting the time you accidentally started a grease fire at McDonalds from your resume, or with a hopeful dropping his weight from 200lbs to 180lbs, but there is a point when failing to acknowledge certain faults does become dire. This is the point when we try to overlook or cover up our past mistakes in order to make ourselves look good to the outside world. At first, this doesn’t seem like too large a problem. There seems to be little harm is justifying bad decisions made in the past. Maybe you thought that joke you told behind your friend’s back really wasn’t going to bother them or that they would “understand.” Maybe you try and tell yourself that the time you stole that candy bar as a kid was just the foolishness of youth or that “everyone else was doing it.” You might feel that justifying past wrongs isn’t the best approach, but that it really isn’t all that bad.

The true problem, however, is that sometimes justifying one’s wrongs turns into defending one’s wrongs. Before you know it, you’re making up excuses that are removing the blame from yourself or even saying that your mistake was not really a mistake at all. Referencing my earlier example, maybe you start telling yourself that the joke you told was really pretty funny and that is was your friend’s fault for getting all bent out of shape about it. The candy bar you stole from Wal-Mart was a “protest” against “the man,” not petty thievery.

While this is bad enough on a small scale, the problem gets much worse as the mistakes/misdeeds get larger. Take Ronald Reagan’s action in Nicaragua and the Contra affair, for example. One can start out saying “well, we had to do all we could to beat the Communists,” or that we were actually doing the Nicaraguans a service, and before they know it they are defending the massacre and torture of innocents. I am not saying that Reagan set out with a goal to kill innocent people or that his whole cause was evil, but we should not defend the gory details of what actually happened. The same thing, although to a lesser degree, is true for Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. One can argue that it “wasn’t our business” to know about his private life, but that does not mean we should say that it was okay that he lied to the American people about it.

What is important to remember in all of this is that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, even George W. Bush (I admit I cringed a little after that press conference flub). What really matters is how we deal with these mistakes. We can either sweep them under the rug and try to justify them, which leads to a whole host of problems, or we can face them head on and denounce them. While it is neither easy nor pleasant, confronting our mistakes is essential if we are to move forward as a country.

Contact Carleton Hanson ’09 at [email protected].

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