Thursday, October 4, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus

It was with a sad heart that I saw the most read article at is the news that superstar athlete Marion Jones is finally admitting to steroid use. I guess I really shouldn't be shocked since these allegations have been flying around for years. But for me, Ms. Jones has always exemplified beauty, strength and grace and now her accomplishments have a shadow cast over them. Of course, Barry Bonds has also had numerous allegations of steroid use--so much so that his record breaking home run totals have fans mostly "ho-humming." Floyd Landis was accused of doping after his Tour de France win and has been unable to clear his name and stands to lose the coveted titled.

But sports are the only place to find those who bend or break the rules--the literary world boasts numerous plagiarists and fabricators. From Stephen Glass to Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke to Mitch Albom--and most recently the semi-autobiographical James Frey, many writers have come under scrutiny for fudging facts or stealing ideas. But whether it's shaving a few seconds off your time due to chemical enhancement or beefing up a bare-bones story by playing fast and loose with the facts, it comes down to the same thing: cheating.

Writer Jackson Lears writes about this in his article Cheater, Cheater saying that the American desire to win at all costs has created an environment of entitlement:

"As economic inequalities have deepened during the last several decades, the renewed worship of money has bred temptation at all levels. Executives at Enron, Worldcom and other corporations, intoxicated by the heady atmosphere of deregulation, defraud shareholders of billions and get away with little or no punishment. The little guy naturally says: If the big shots get away with it, why not me? So he cheats on his taxes, steals from his company and downloads music without paying for it."
He has a point. How many people have claimed a questionable deduction? Pilfered some pens from the office? Made a copy of a DVD? Rode the shoulder on a clogged freeway to jump the line of traffic? Parked to take up two spaces out of laziness or to avoid dings on your car door? Pushed a cart filled to brim through a 12 items or less checkout stand? Get handicapped placards even though able-bodied so they can park closer to entrances and/or for free? Tossed a cigarette butt or other piece of trash because there wasn't a conveniently located trash can?

Hey--everybody does it, right? Maybe so--but it's still cheating. No doubt we've become so cynical seeing the attitude of "the rules don't apply to me" running rampant. After all, our "semi-elected" President has declared that the Executive Branch is not accountable to any entity--the assertion of "executive privilege" trumping the checks and balances our forefathers built into our Federal system of government. It's little wonder our long-held ideals of honor, integrity and fair play have gone the way of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.


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