Sunday, June 2, 2019

Protect This House and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

“The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you”- David Foster Wallace

Three years ago, Art Briles was removed from his position as head football coach of the Baylor University Bears. From a lawsuit filed on behalf of 17 women, it is alleged that over a period of five years 19 of Briles’ players committed sexual and/or physical assaults. The victims claim that Briles and his staff knew about most, if not all, of these attacks and did nothing. Took no action to report these complaints to the police or the university authorities and, for the most part, worked to protect the players and the program.

This whole terrible event is now back on the front page because Art Briles just got hired to coach a football team here in Texas. A nice Sunday drive to the southeast of where I live is the hometown of Don Meredith, Mount Vernon. Dandy Don the almost great and much beloved QB of the early days Dallas Cowboys; and the good ol’ boy star of Monday Night Football back when Monday Night Football was a thing. The fine folks of Mount Vernon and Franklin County, Texas are now the talk of the football world. A handful of their fellow citizens decided that Art Briles would be the right man to lead their Mount Vernon Tigers to football glory. They spoke to several of his references, most notably Grant Teaff, Baylor coaching legend and former head of the American Football Coaches Association. Grant Teaff is a devout Christian and a man of impeccable character. If he endorses someone, it’s like gold in the state of Texas. And he gave Briles his golden thumbs up.

Much has been written about the Baylor/Briles mess. Regardless of who knew what, when did they know and what did they do or not do about it; the big question is WHY? Why do people and institutions allow bad things, or even alleged bad things, to go on without being addressed and resolved, one way or the other?

What is behind the bad judgment and poor decision-making that goes on to create outcomes like the Baylor mess, or the Penn State/Paterno/Sandusky thing, or going to war over non-existent WMDs, or Watergate, or the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal…or, or, or….?

The core issue is one of morality. Either their moral compass is broken or they simply rationalize their decision to fit the situation. In most cases, including the ones mentioned above, people made decisions which they thought were “right”. So how does one see “right” in something that is so “wrong”. Or at least wrong when viewed objectively in the clear light that tends to shine after the damage has been done.

When ones first priority is “Protecting This House”, or position, or company, or reputation, or fortune…or anything we place great value upon…we simply lie to ourselves and then to others. We cast doubt on the “wrong” that has been done or will be done. Maybe it’s not that bad or it didn’t happen at all or nothing will happen. Maybe what we are doing is for the greater good and what has happened or will happen to innocent people is just collateral damage. Or maybe they aren’t all that innocent in the first place. Maybe we are doing what we really believe to be the right thing, but we take the easy way out and make up stories that sound better (if they actually turn out to be true…WMDs were there…yes they really were…no matter what the facts are.)

In the end, the truth and doing the right thing may get you nailed to a cross. But the truth and the doing the wrong thing leaves you hanging up there….or seeking redemption too late in a place like Mount Vernon.

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