In a column I produced for the Free Press on the subject of Memorial Day, I celebrated the incredible sacrifices of those men and women who have fought for our freedom. This is well-known history to us in America. My online research revealed the amazing birthing of this holiday, and I included some of these details in my column. What I failed to do – and I take full responsibility for this – is that I did not state that segments of this historical record came from many sources that shared identical information. It was not my own work, but was a compilation of well-known facts about this holiday and I should have clarified that. I had no intention of publishing un-sourced material from other people who had worked hard to develop it, and for that, I apologize.
I took full responsibility for my error and, to ensure the reputation of the Free Press, resigned as a columnist for them.
I also made my blog private over the weekend. I did so because a couple of people were inundating it with nasty comments. I have no control over what people say in other areas, but I do on my blog. Making it private was easier, considering our family commitments, than going in and changing each individual one of my over a thousand posts to no commenting and then changing it back later. It is now back to normal.
In light of this incident, some are saying that because I have made mistakes in my life, I shouldn’t be sharing my thoughts and opinions about our government.
First, freedom of speech is not restricted to only those who are perfect. We all have the ability, as well as the responsibility, to pay attention to what our elected servants are doing on our behalf and to communicate with them and others about those actions and decisions. This is especially critical in a place like Toledo where only selective information is shared with the public.
Second, I reject the perspective of some that a mistake in one part of your life invalidates your opinions on all other matters. This is a fallacious argument often employed by people who cannot attack the position, so they attack the person. It’s called an ad hominem fallacy. An attack on me, personally, does not mean that my opinions, ideas, positions or conclusions are wrong. In fact, I’d say it’s more of an indication that the positions are so good that the only way to attack them is to divert attention by attacking the person.
There are also these arguments:
• The circumstantial ad hominem – that the circumstances surrounding a person make their statements true or false. The circumstances – or even the motivation – of a person making a statement are irrelevant when considering the validity of that statement.
• The personal attack fallacy – very similar to the ad hominem – ‘Maggie says that ordinance is a bad thing – and well, you know Maggie – so the ordinance must be good.’
• The ‘poisoning the well’ fallacy – where unfavorable or negative information about someone is presented in order to make you question the person and reject any argument she makes.
In all these examples, the information about the person does not change the validity of the positions.
For example, regardless of anything about me, the ordinance to bill for fire services contains language that says the city shall bill homeowners for anything not covered by insurance and that is contrary to what the politicians are telling us is going to happen. That fact was true last week and it’s true today. My circumstances have not changed that.
Third – I reject the idea that simply because I make a mistake, I have lost my ‘right’ (as some people call it) to point out when others are making that same mistake or other ones. If you believe that, don’t pay any attention to what I have to say. Don’t waste your time reading my blog.
Leftists often employ this type of reasoning or justification. They know that no one is perfect and they are trying to eliminate criticism of actions and decisions by claiming that only perfect people can offer a criticism. No perfection? No criticism.
But let me ask this: who do you bring in to talk to kids about not joining gangs? Former gang members. What organization is good at helping alcoholics kick the habit? Alcoholic Anonymous – which is comprised of former alcoholics. Have you heard of Scared Straight?
As parents, do you tell your children not to do certain things, even though you did them when you were their age? Did you lose your ‘right’ to provide direction and instruction to them or help them to not make mistakes because you actually made the same ones? Or did your experience of making mistakes make you wiser and better at the instruction necessary to be a good parent?
Of course, the same people who criticize you for criticizing are, themselves, far from perfect and are violating their own reasoning in doing so. If I’m not perfect and cannot criticize, then you, who are also not perfect, cannot criticize me for criticizing others. But that point seems lost on those who want no criticisms ….
However, it’s a very effective argument for many who believe it and for others who don’t want to be labeled a hypocrite. It’s hypocritical to say ‘do as I say, not as I do’ … It’s not hypocritical to say ‘do as I say because I’ve done what you’re doing and it’s bad.’
Some are making a point that my blog requests proper attribution for original work, but that I failed to do this in my article. They somehow conclude, as a result, that I am a hypocrite. I’m not, because I believe that attribution is proper and when I unintentionally neglected to follow my own standards, I apologized and resigned. Failing to provide attribution is wrong, even when I do it. That’s not hypocrisy – it’s sincerity.
Furthermore, the hypocrisy is not in saying something is wrong, it’s in saying it is wrong for some but okay for others. Hypocrisy is applying a standard to some people, but not others, especially when it fits your personal or political agenda. If something is wrong, it’s wrong – even when you are guilty of it yourself.
So what do we do when we find we’ve done something wrong? We correct it, try to make amends if possible, and then learn ways to not do the same thing again. As the composer John Powell said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
After leaving public office, I was asked by a reporter if I would change anything I had done. I said no. That certainly wasn’t because I didn’t regret certain decisions I made, or even wish that I’d made other ones along the way. I did. It was because I realize that any mistakes, errors of judgment, or decisions with negative outcomes enabled me to learn lessons that I obviously needed to learn. And while I may wish I didn’t have to learn such lessons, I am a wiser person today for having done so. And those lessons, and the knowledge I have gained, give me a unique perspective on the goings on in our government – perspectives that some don’t want you to know about.
There are a number of people in this area who want me to shut up and go away. They hope the continual rehashing of things in my past will frustrate me and tire me out to the point where I just say ‘that’s it – I’m done.’ And I must admit – it’s pretty tempting sometimes to do just that.
It’s very difficult to be in the public light, but seems especially so in Toledo. It takes an intestinal fortitude that many do not have – nor wish to develop. Many never enter public service because they are afraid (rightfully so) of having mistakes in their past played out on the front pages of the local newspaper – or discussed by anonymous bloggers on internet forums.
I’ve been there – done that. And I know that we need to continue taking a stand and pointing out bad policies and bad decisions in our community in spite of this, because if we don’t, the bad policies and decisions will continue and the proponents of those bad policies and decisions will continue to use this tactic to silence their detractors.
So I’m not going away. I’m a thorn in their sides and, considering the incredible amount of time they spend on me, I’m obviously effective.
I will endeavor to not make mistakes, but being human, I know there will be some.
And I will continue to share information as well as my thoughts and opinions. I implore you to do the same, regardless of your circumstances. Now is not the time to allow the imperfections in our pasts to prevent us from shaping our future.