Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lance Armstrong and the American Dream

The revelation that Lance Armstrong was the ringleader of the doping ring that was the United States Postal Service cycling team is distressing. The number of witnesses against him, who by speaking out had their own records tarnished, removes any doubt about his lying, duplicity, and  lack of concern for those who had placed him on a pedestal.
I've mentioned before the work of 19th century British political philosopher, Walter Bagehot, who said you can tell a lot about a nation by whom it admires. In this case though, it isn't a country's values that have been found missing. Instead it was the need of many of us to find a determined cancer survivor who represented the best of us.
While this isn't new in a country that elected Warren G Harding and George W. Bush president it is truly scary for someone like me who believed in the American dream. We had to learn that our bankers were criminals, that our legislators were owned by the rich and that everything in Washington is up for sale.
National figures told me every time I gave an exam, 70% of the college students I taught had already cheated in their academic careers. When I was in college the only organized cheating existed in certain fraternities whose members wanted to get into medical school.
My ridiculous belief in the marriage of Elizabeth and John Edwards had already taught me it's easy to be a fool. Day after day, we learn how many of our public figures have feet of clay.
In the old days we had Joe McCarthy, Billy Sol Estes, and other charlatans. Many Americans seem to have the genes of Phineas T Barnum in their makeup. But now it seems worse. I have close friends I completely trust, but I'm reluctant to trust outside that group. Perhaps it's best to have limited expectations of others, but that wasn't the way I wanted to live, and still don't.
At the start of the last century kids reacted to the Black Sox scandal by saying, "say it ain't so Joe." That was in a more innocent, trusting country. That doesn't happen in the new America. We expect it to be true.

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