Everyone should be held accountable for his or her actions, but it’s human nature to have different expectations and standards for different people.
We roll our eyes and laugh when the post shows up on Facebook saying politicians should wear stickers of the companies that influence them like NASCAR racers. When the latest campaign contribution or sex scandal hits the news, we raise our eyes toward Heaven and say “Well that’s a politician for ya.” And we ask, “Did President Trump or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (depending on your political leaning) say something dumb? Are you surprised?”
A year ago, Big Pharma icon Martin Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison for federal fraud. In 2015, he appeared most memorably in the spotlight for increasing the cost of his company’s drug Daraprim, used for treating toxoplasmosis and malaria prevention, by 5,000 percent.
Not so many years before, in 2008, Bernie Madoff, a former NASDAQ chairman, was convicted of stock and securities fraud and admitted he ran a Ponzi scheme out of his Wall Street firm. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and restitution of $170 billion.
These are only examples of many people’s disdain for Big … Anything, really. The most cynical of us presume businesses, the larger the guiltier, are only out to make a buck, customers be damned. I’m looking at you, Comcast.
Granted, those leaning left tend to distrust the (Republican) rich more while those leaning right tend to distrust the (Democrat) politicians more.
The religious sect hasn’t escaped low expectations either. After the widely reported child abuse cases to fraud and other illegal activity, the public is hardly shocked these days when those who preach “thou shalt not” indeed “shalt” sometimes to great harm.
Just a week ago, the Polish Bishops' Conference released a report, covering the last 30 years, which found that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims —with almost 200 victims under the age of 15, 90 percent of the adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18.
I’m not picking on the Catholics alone. I don’t have to go back to the '90s and recount the sins of Jim Bakker and Jerry Falwell when I can point to Charlie Hamrick, who a jury found guilty of six counts of capital sexual battery of a child under the age of 12 near the end of 2017. Hamrick was a Tate High School football assistant coach and church leader in Pensacola.
Did your hair stand up a little when I mentioned our region?
My cynicism has taken another hit, this time with the nonprofit community, and this time even closer to home.
Four years ago, I noticed a Facebook meme floating around denouncing national nonprofits for the percentage of donations that actually help people and the amount of money their CEOs make. In particular, the meme noted United Way President Brian Gallagher receives a $375,000 base salary along with expense benefits.
In a 2015 article, I pointed out this may be the case, but the Santa Rosa County United Way branch, according to its website, only pays one percent of the money it raises to United Way Worldwide — and that for services like national branding, research and training.
Then-executive director of United Way-Santa Rosa County Guy Thompson said he made $39,000 annually after 36 years with the organization. How noble.
Then on Oct. 26, 2018, Thompson was fired following “accounting irregularities” turning up in an independent audit.
The FBI’s investigation is ongoing. United Way Worldwide ordered the local organization to immediately stop using its name. And all of this broke just as the local United Way was finishing up helping to move mobile home park residents to new homes following a failed septic system and a court order to leave.
Am I a complete cynic now?
No, but I invite you to adopt a mindset all good cynics have: No one is above reproach.
Ultimately, we’re all people. We’re all flawed and corruptible. This isn’t a call for understanding or forgiveness, but one of diligence.
You may roll your eyes at “those darn Democrats” again, but are you ignoring red flags about specific right-wing leaders just because of the R?
Audit the Fed, yeah, but have you seen your church’s most recent audit?
I still recall a scripture constantly repeated by a pastor who utterly failed me and my family down decades ago, Acts 17:11. “…they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Who is your Paul? Are you checking to see if what he says is true?
Aaron Little is the editor of the Santa Rosa Press Gazette and the Crestview News Bulletin. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org