Okay, Cosmo drinkers out there, maybe I was a little hard on you yesterday, with the hypocrisy comparison. I don’t want to get bonked on the head with a Kate Spade bag the next time I step out, so I’ve chosen to feature a cocktail nobody’s heard of, the Pain Killer. It’s made with dark rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, nutmeg and orange juice, which makes it a natural for drinkers who are underage, hung over, or hiding something under the cover of strong fruity tastes. The Pain Killer is as shocked as his parole officer to learn that, wow, there’s rum in this drink.
I propose that the pain being killed is the pain of discovery. Imagine how a banana feels, being peeled. Now imagine what happens if you peel a hypocrite, who offers a pretty juicy, irresistible, banana-like target. John Ensign, Eliot Spitzer, Roy Ashburn, these were media feeding frenzies for a reason. We love to watch hypocrisy get squeezed out of its sanctimonious rind, we have powerful urges to see it exposed, and every once in a while, we are gratified by a set of overwhelming facts, perhaps caught on video or confirmed by thousands, that comes along to slice right through that ignorant bliss. But unlike bananas, hypocrites don’t just sit there. They react, seeking to replace the discomfort of exposure with an artificial bliss induced by rum. Into this Pain Killer also go strained rationalizations, false apologies, and flat-out denial of the facts, no matter how glaring they are.
There is one other possibility: the honest confession. I call this the Papaya Smoothie response. It is rarer, but a lot healthier. It has no alcohol, for one thing, just lots of fruit with honey as a natural sweetener, and it is the consistency of cheerfulness. If you’ve ever listened to public radio during a pledge drive, you might have noticed Ira Glass showing off his knack for finding people who cheerfully admit their hypocrisy after it is pointed out to them. This is no small thing. He gets people on the telephone who are rumored to listen to NPR without donating to it. He asks them if, indeed, the rumors are true. They groan or laugh and fess up. Then they write a check. Cheerfully.
I’m no Ira Glass, having never found anyone who is cheerful during the pointing out process. I mostly find Pain Killer types, especially ones who rationalize. For example, a dear friend used to merge into an already crowded highway during morning rush hour like this: he’d stay in the merge lane until the last possible moment, until he was practically driving sideways on the concrete barrier, then he’d insert his car ahead of all those other cars patiently waiting their turn. We call this behavior Budging in Line, and it dovetails with hypocrisy’s penchant for holding others to standards (or traffic laws) it has no intention of following.
I discussed this driving behavior with my left-leaning force-for-good-in-the-world friend. What gives with the Budging? Does it not smack of thoughtlessly capitalistic, Me-First individualism? Apparently not, because he proceeded to deliver a dissertation on how his driving was serving the common good of the traffic—the only reason he cut in front of other cars was to do them a favor.
Our politicians are even less prone to cheerfulness when their hypocrisies are called out than my friend, but they’ve learned not to rationalize. Instead, they have press conferences, where they usually fail to apologize for being hypocrites, preferring to apologize for lesser and more flattering offenses: “mis-speaking” is popular, as is the offense of sticking to their principles when they should have caved in immediately to political expediency, or my favorite, just today, from oil industry cheerleader and Texas Republican Joe Barton, an apology for how other people misconstrued his deep sympathy and good heart in his earlier apology, which was to BP's Tony Hayward for "Obama's shakedown" of him. Barton went with “mis-speaking,” but credited it to someone else.
Confused? At least we don’t have to contemplate any powerful religious institutions failing to face bald facts about the gap between what their members do with what they preach. Whew! They’re way too busy excommunicating a nun at a Phoenix hospital for saving a woman’s life to have sexually abused thousands of children they’ve suffered to come unto them. And even if one or two clergymen were pedophiles—not that any are, I’m just sayin’—we all know those poor, poor priests would be victims of “media frenzies” in a “secular" age.Okay, enough of that icky scenario. Thank goodness it hasn’t come to pass, while the Pain Killer still edges itself onto coasters and bev naps the nation over. Much as I like a nice, fruity rum punch, I’m going to aspire to Papaya Smoothie. Call me, Ira. I’m ready.