Hypocrisy — An Invaluable Discriminator

          I recall riding in cars in the 1970's with my step-dad behind the wheel.  In traffic, he would holler and gesture and 'talk a blue streak' (mom-speak) about other drivers and pedestrians.  At home, he would occasionally shout at TV newscasters.  In person, however, he was always polite...to a fault.

          Who was my step-dad?

          A reactionary, idiotic, rude, old man; intelligent enough to know when to filter himself?  Or was he a courteous, open-minded, thoughtful person who—when safely ensconced on the other-side of a protective barrier—ranted at the occasional egregiously-behaved fool or jester?  I don't know if the answer is important.  I suspect it's not.  But the question is.

          Immediate family were the only witnesses to his bursts of vitriol.  I seriously doubt he would ever have defined himself using negative verbiage of any stripe (even the concept of defining himself would have been foreign to him).  I think of all the co-workers, fellow congregants, neighbors and extended family members who thought they knew him but who never witnessed him shout, "Pick a fuckin lane you miserable cunt!" or "They otta throw all those longhair-draft-dodgein-fags in the slammer!"

          If you subscribe to the belief that people 'reveal their true nature' in times when their guard is down...my step-dad was Archie Bunker wearing a Jimmy Carter mask.  When I consider his behavior in the context of how it affected who I grew up to be, I focus on the hypocrisy.  His lifelong struggle to keep internal-Archie mute and fabricate the external-Jimmy persona must have been immensely difficult; as difficult as a homosexual who (in 1966 America) decided at the age of thirty-nine to forevermore deny his innate attraction and marry an aging divorcée with two grade-school children before moving his ready-made family half-way across the country (this unrelated suspicion I have about my step-dad is based on very few facts; I merely include it here to suggest there were possible other hidden layers to "who he really was").

          Back to hypocrisy.  I suspect it's a much more valuable discriminator than many people realize.  How often do you attempt to measure someone's normally hidden hypocrisy?  It's one of, if not THE primary tool I use to decide if someone is a trusted friend or merely an acquaintance.

          If I'd been friends with OJ Simpson... (This is a quote from one of the most un-hypocritical people I've ever known; I hope he remains my very good friend for a long time to come) ...and, back in 1994, I went to talk to him and he said to me, "Dude, I just snapped when I saw 'em together."  Then I'd have just said, "That's cool, let's go play golf."  But if he was all, "Hey, I hope they catch who really did it."  Then I wouldn't have been able to stay friends with him.

          Chris's blog post Don't call me a "liberal" begins with this excerpt (to the right) of commenters on a Weather.com article about the current drought in Texas.  As is often the case, give a hypocrite a protective barrier (the epitome of web-commenting) and they let their inner Archie Bunker out.

          I learned from my step-dad what I didn't want to be.  Who you read here is who you talk to on the phone is who you meet in person.  Liberal?..ok.  Hypocrite?..never.

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