A while ago a friend called and said she needed to talk to both my wife and me. We listened together on speakerphone as she told us that one of her friends had stated it was common knowledge that I was having an affair with someone who works at the courthouse.
Stop laughing. It’s not funny.
Okay, it’s a little bit funny, but not ha-ha funny. Our friend wasn’t really concerned, but more than a little puzzled over how a rumor like that could start.
As were we.
After we hung up, we called the person I was supposedly having an affair with and told her.
She laughed. I realize that’s not particularly flattering. Let’s face it, though. If she was going to have an affair, she could do a lot better than me.
It was the second puzzling thing to happen to me within a month. A couple weeks ago, a local businessman called and yelled at me for thirty minutes for being the only county commissioner opposed to helping businesses harmed by the pandemic. I didn’t blame him for being overwrought, but the thing is, it wasn’t true. Not even close. But someone had told him that. Two big, blatant lies that served no purpose except to make me miserable enough to want to dig a ditch across the end of my driveway and never leave again - after I disconnected my phone.
I had a theory. This is an election year and I’d been trying to decide whether I should run for another term as county commissioner. My initial plan was to pull the plug on public life this year, but I love where I live and I still have some things I want to accomplish. Plus, heading to the exit in the midst of the current mess we’re in seems kind of cowardly. I was dithering.
Does that sound weird? Let’s face it, being a county commissioner is not that big a deal. Every now and then I get a chance to make a difference, but not often. Would me dropping out really be worth spreading a malevolent lie that could have ruined my life? That’s just mean.
Maybe I’m being paranoid. I really hope I’m wrong, because I’d be so disappointed to find out I’m right. But there is something very strange going on in this country. There’s a lot of mean going around.
I’ve never understood people who are flat out mean. I can deal with ruthless, competitive, driven - all of that. After all, most real progress in the world is the result of people who are passionate about achieving their goals and not willing to let anything get in the way. There should be some rules, though, right?
It’s a big problem. I love this country so much. America, the America I’ve always loved, is often loud, messy, and annoying. It’s also big-hearted and generous. The memories of the times in our history when the mean came out, those are the memories that make us cringe.
When Teddy Roosevelt, a good Republican who regulated big business and started the environmental movement, was running a ranch in North Dakota, one of his employees slapped his brand on a calf that wasn’t his. Teddy fired him on the spot, saying, “If you’ll cheat for me, you’ll cheat against me.”
There are a lot of lies out there, a lot of mean going around, and it makes me angry. Really angry. It should make you angry, too, because we have a lot at stake. A good start would be to stop believing lies.
Copyright 2020 Brent Olson