Cognitive Dissonance: Does your past define your future?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my future and how I’m going to go about living through my “golden years” when/if I’m ever able to retire.

Now, full disclosure,  I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, some of them were very costly, some that certainly changed the course of my life.  Some, there is simply no going back to “fix”, as they were time-sensitive so to speak.  But this isn’t really about me…

I’ve noticed several instances lately where someone’s past has directly interfered with their present/future.  And not because what they did in their past was so egregious but because somebody NOW doesn’t like what they did THEN. 

This sort of thing has bothered me for a long time, but lately it seems to be at a fever pitch.  My first example of this comes from my employment field. I work in what can best be described as a “health care adjacent” role.  In other words, it’s a healthcare facility,  but my role has nothing to do with providing health care and in fact my interactions with patients is slim to none.  And yet, because it’s a licensed facility  nobody is allowed to work here if they have a felony record, regardless of what position they apply for.  Doesn’t matter what it was for, or how long ago it happened.  Doesn’t matter if you “served your time” and have been “rehabilitated”.  Doesn’t matter if you just had a short stint of probation and have been squeaky clean for the last 20 years.   So you sold bag of weed when you were 18 and got busted and now you’re 28 and want to work as a dishwasher to support yourself?  Too bad, you should’ve thought about that 10 years ago!  Now, some facilities like mine (former employers) will make exceptions in rare cases (usually only if they are in a major bind and can’t find otherwise eligible candidates) but the exceptions are few and far between and take a spectacular amount of hoop-jumping to obtain. And believe me, they (the employer) are NOT going to jump through those hoops for a dishwasher.  Or a housekeeper or maintenance guy.  They will simply file your application in the nearest recycling container and move on to the next applicant.

In certain contexts I understand this.  If you’re 25 and on your third DUI, I’m not going to hire you to be my delivery driver.  But if you screwed up in college and got a DUI, but not so much as a parking ticket for the last 10 or 12 years, I’d suspect its safe to say you learned your lesson and you deserve a chance. If you embezzled from a previous employer and were convicted for it, I probably don’t want you working in my accounting department.   But a blanket ban on employment seems really draconian. And frankly, unkind at the base level.

This kind of stuff has irked me for a long, long time, but lately it seems so much worse and it’s showing up in places where really it has no place.

I was recently watching Senate hearings having to do with judicial appointments.   (As an aside, if you’ve never watched any of these, you should – very enlightening.)  One of the appointees was being grilled by Senator Cruz from Texas.  (No, I’m not a fan, he just happened to be the one speaking at the time).  Anyhow, he’s grilling the judicial candidate about a paper she wrote over 25 years ago while still a law student. You could tell the candidate was really peeved about it and kept repeating  “that was over 25 years ago, Senator” as if to say “don’t hold that against me, I was young and dumb then”. 

Now, in that particular instance,  I felt the line of questioning WAS at least pertinent to the position and frankly with  what she’d written all those years ago, I’d probably have been inclined to disqualify her from the judicial appointment too, but it got me thinking.  Aren’t we, as living, evolving human beings allowed to change? And if so, shouldn’t that change account for something? Does life experience count for anything?

I don’t know anything about this particular judge (yes, she’s currently a judge, but had been nominated for spot in a higher court…) but I did find out (‘cuz I looked it up!) that she is just slightly younger than me, so if nothing else we share the same generation as each other. Unlike me, this lady was clearly an overachiever, Harvard Law and an appointment to the bench realitively young. I imagine her to be a very focused, organized person with pretty strong professional ambitions. She’s probably spent her entire life doing all the “right” things, maybe dreaming of one day being on SCOTUS, who knows? And all that effort, all those years of work, all that sacrifice, all those dreams unraveled in 2 minutes over the contents of a school paper from two and a half DECADES back. Do you think that when she was a young, bright eyed law student writing that paper back in the 1990’s she suspected for even a nanosecond that those words on that paper would come back to effectively slam the brakes on her career 25 years later? Highly unlikely. She was probably just doing her best to sound thoughtful and sincere so her Prof would give her a good grade on the paper.

Having “come up” during the same time period, I can tell you with 100% accuracy that my thoughts and opinions changed on damn near everything, SUBSTANTIALLY, over the last 25 years. If the words of 25-year-old me were going to be held against me now? Good grief, I’d be living in a box under a bridge! Nobody would hire me for my current role with my 25 year old attitudes, unless they were clinically insane. That’s the upside of aging, you can actually learn. You can change your mind. You can GROW as a PERSON.

Take the latest Rogen kerfuffle for example. Here’s a guy that’s done quite a few things, he’s met a lot of interesting people and clearly he’s CURIOUS and looking for new information and insights all the time. Hell, you could say he’s “Professionally Curious”. So he talks to people from all walks, across the political spectrum on wildly divergent subjects and puts it out there for the other MILLIONS of curious people. He’s not frothing at the mouth, he’s not insulting anyone that doesn’t agree with him, hes not attempting to indoctrinate anybody, he’s just putting the conversation out there, asking the questions that frankly, most “personalities” are far too scared to ask.

When I first read of Neil Young’s “demands” of Spotify, I literally laughed out loud. Here’s a guy that was mediocre, AT BEST, fifty freakin’ years ago. He’s been completely irrelevant for the last 20. And he’s gonna pull the “either he goes or I go” thing over a guy that millions listen to every day?!? What a maroon. When his dusty, crusty cohorts jumped on board with him, I felt sad for THEM. How irrelevant must you feel to hitch your wagon to a horse NOBODY cares about? The bitter irony of bunch of old Hippies demanding censorship is just too much!

When Joe made his apology, I thought, ” well, he’s a better man than I”, cuz honestly I couldn’t have helped myself from making fun of those idiot dinosaurs. But what I didn’t see coming were the other dingbats that saw all this unfolding and thought “ha! he’s on the ropes, what else can we throw at him?!?” So India Aire (another has-been) comes out trying to make folks remember she exists by digging up stuff from YEARS ago to keep the dog pile going? What’s next, some guy from Joe’s middle school complaining about the wedgie Joe gave him in gym class? When is enough, enough? When can we, as HUMANS, recognize that we and the world around us is constantly changing and evolving? When does “society” decide that your past can now stay in the past? Or that your opinions have sufficiently changed enough that now you’re allowed to show your face in public? What ever happened to forgiveness, not to mention the acceptance and inclusion everyone is crowing about these days? What is the point of demanding someone change if you plan to ostricicize them from society regardless, for prior “sins”?

Growing up in the 80’s, we had this…group?… by the name of “The Moral Majority”, led by a skeezy televangelist. As a young teen I despised these people and their Holier-than-thou attitude. (And I grew up in a strict religious household!) I always wondered “who do these people think they are, telling everyone how to live?!?” It seemed patently un-American and it certainly didn’t strike me as “workin’ for the Lord”. It was organized pestering and harassment of people (artists, musicians, etc.) that THEY deemed “wrong” in one way or another and did their best to stamp these people out.

What’s unique this time around is that unlike the 1980s, where it was a bunch of old fogies (such as myself, now) trying to stomp out youth culture, now the youth culture seems to revolve around tearing down or downright destroying anyone and anything that “offends” their tender sensibilities. Which puts me in the weird position of being an old guy that feels compelled to stomp out youth culture, because youth culture these days is bitter, unforgiving, judgemental, and just freakin’ TOXIC!

But seriously, for the life of me I cannot figure out what these people are up to! What is their reward for their incessant outrage? You hear phrases like “cancel culture doesn’t exist” and “we demand justice!” and we’re implored to think of the “marginalized” and the “underserved” above our own self-interests, and yet at every turn as soon as anyone makes a mistake, the rush is on to see who can destroy that person first. And if, heaven forbid, the accused isn’t contrite enough, doesn’t bow deep enough for their accuser, then it turns into a team sport until the accused is finally silenced, bankrupted and/or unemployable. Bonus points for the accusers if they get all 3!

The way I see it, this “culture” we find ourselves in, is destined to end in flames and destruction. When the only “positive” you bring to the table is a willingness and desire to tear others down, you’ll end up with nothing but rubble surrounding you.

It’s easy to condemn. It’s easy to break things. It’s easy to ridicule. These are the actions of the weak and the thoughtless.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Remember that old gem?

We are better than that. I don’t just mean Americans, I mean we humans. I don’t care where you’re from, what color your skin is, what religion you practice (or don’t practice, for that matter), you don’t have to be drawn in to the negativity. You don’t need to find that needle in a haystack that will destroy another human if it’s brought to light. Learn to accept the fact that NONE of us are perfect and that ALL of us are going down our own paths, and we’ll learn the lessons we need to learn along the way. Tearing down someone else won’t do anything to raise yourself up. Screaming those lessons in our faces just makes us want to ignore you.

Just my two cents…

Thanks for reading!

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