Friday, January 2, 2015

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Stupid?

As comedian Ron White once noted, "You can't fix stupid."  But I wonder if there is a statute of limitations on it? How long from the point that we do a stupid thing do we have to keep paying for and answering for the stupid thing? 

In the news of late is the revelation that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) spoke at a 2002 conference hosted by the white supremacist group European-American Unity and Rights Organization. Scalise said he "didn't know" the details of the groups attending the conference and called accusations of connections to the white supremacist group "insulting and ludicrous."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgment, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate." 

In light of the current climate of distrust between the African American community and many police departments who tend to be supported unequivocally by political conservatives, the idea of a direct line between a Republican leader and a white supremacist group would seem to be a bit much to ignore. And Scalise's denials of connections to this group may sound disingenuous.  

But we all have things we have done in our past that were at least stupid, at worst wrong. How long should those offences be held against us? I suppose a lot of that comes down to context.  

  • How stupid or wrong was the transgression?
  • How long has it been since the transgression was committed? 
  • What have we done since that time to make amends for that transgression? 

Recently Fox News labeled rapper Jay Z as "a former drug dealer". It seems that Jay Z had some degree of input on some kind of government policy thing and the Fox News pundit was incredulous that the US government was taking advise from "a former drug dealer". 

To be be fair, Jay Z is a former drug dealer, at least according to some of his rap lyrics. I didn't see any record of any charges or convictions from that time period so who knows, maybe it's true or maybe its just street rap bravado. Anyway, that was in the 1980's. Jay Z has since become a major success story as a performer, producer and businessman. To refer to him in the present day as "a former drug dealer" to the exclusion of all else that he has accomplished is a bit unfair. 

So are we being unfair to Steve Scalise? The speech in question was nearly 13 years ago. And perhaps Scalise was in the dark as to the true nature of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization; a lack of ethnic diversity in the crowd may not have been a red flag for a Republican in 2002 and it's not like the name of the group was something more obvious like the European-American Unity and Rights For White People Only Organization

Still, even if it can be argued that Scalise should've known better and knew very well who he was talking to, that was then. What about now? 

Look, this is not intended as a defense or endorsement of Steve Scalise. For all I know, it may come out that Scalise personally launders the sheets for a local KKK chapter. Or maybe he's the upstanding man of integrity that John Boehner says he is. And it looks like for now its a moot point and Scalise will survive this issue. Ultimately, my question is, as I stated at the top, is there a statute of limitations on stupid? 

God, I hope so. At least, I hope it's less than 30 years. Otherwise, I may be labeled an anti-Semite.  

Yes, I will explain. 

I used to watch a lot of PBS in my college days, mostly for the Doctor Who. But I watched other shows including a sketch comedy show called Dave Allen At Large. I thought Dave Allen was a very funny man and I frequently, paid homage to material from his show. One particular item was a joke that I shared with a fellow student. 

Here's the joke: There were these three children playing together and one of them pipes up and says, "I love Christmas morning! I wake up all excited as I run downstairs to see what's under the Christmas tree and I find all the toys, toys, TOYS! I love TOYS!"  

The 2nd child says, "I love Christmas too! Oh, getting up Christmas morning and rushing to the tree to see all the Christmas presents and opening the presents and geting all the toys, toys, TOYS! Oh, yes! TOYS!! I LOVE TOYS!"

Well the 3rd child is silent so the other kids ask, "Do love Christmas too? And all the toys you get for Christmas?" And the 3rd child answers, "My family is Jewish so we don't celebrate Christmas." 

The other 2 children are aghast. "You don't celebrate Christmas? So what do you do on Christmas morning?" And 3rd kid replies, "Well, we go down to my dad's toy factory and count all our money." 


And yes, the student I told the joke to was Jewish. And no, I was a total block head with NO idea that this may have been offensive. In all honesty, I was not aware of the stereotypes involving Jews and money. Me, I thought it was funny because I thought the other 2 kids were suckers. Yes, I grew up in a Christian home and we celebrated Christmas. But what can I say, even as a young boy I was a pragmatic guy. Quite frankly, I would prefer the money over the stuff any day. 

Still I was totally oblivious to the implications to a Jewish person that the narrative of this joke could be interpreted as "Oh, them Jews and they're money. And missing out on Christmas, the poor bastards." Again, I didn't see it that way (and I can't speak for Dave Allen but maybe he didn't either) but I was clueless to the potential for offense.  

So 30+ years later, I hope I'm not labeled as "Dave-El, former anti-Semite". 

And if I am, I'm so glad my suffering amuses you.  

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