Posted by: johnhourihan | January 24, 2014

Benghazi, Beirut and stolen doughnuts

Lately, when I hear the outrage aimed at our president over Benghazi, I remember that a long time ago I learned that outrage usually has to do with someone else, never about ourselves.
Back in the early 1970s I was not yet out of my Southeast Asian insanity, and I was traipsing throughout the United States in a Camarro with two equally strange friends.
We had just returned from Pennsylvania where we picked up a fellow vet who had been living in a YWCA (no, it was a guy. His mother ran the place.)
We were headed to Milford, Massachusetts, but stopped at a coffee shop along the highway in Connecticut.
We sat at the counter and ordered coffees. As I drank mine, I saw one of those bell-jar type display plates with a glass bubble over the top of about a dozen donuts.
I lifted the glass top and took a chocolate donut. I ate it and washed it down with half my coffee. Then I snatched up a second – a lemon doughnut. I had been hungry and now I wasn’t.
Then Steve motioned to the young man behind the counter. “ How much is that?” he asked
“55 cents for the coffee and 20 cents a doughnut.
“What doughnut?” I asked with fake innocence. “No one had any doughnuts.”
“You did,” the kid said with real surprise.
“No. I had coffee,” I insisted.
He looked at me for a few seconds then said, “You had two doughnuts. You took them from right here.”
“No, I just had coffee,” I shot back staring into his eyes and smiling.
He wiped the crumbs from the counter in front of me, and after a few seconds he said, “That just ain’t right, man.”
“What? What ain‘t right?”
“You know. You ate two donuts and now you won’t pay. That is just not right.”
I thought about it for a silent minute.
“So you want to sit here and deal with my ethics? You think I’ m just wrong. I‘m a bad person?”
‘Well, yeah, right. It just ain’t right …  and you know it.”
“Really,” I answered. “Well I just had a coffee,” I slapped a dollar on the counter. “I say I owe you 55 cents. Here’s a buck. keep the change.”
I looked straight into his eyes, and after a few seconds he smiled.
“Right, I said  as I stood up. Now you get to deal with your ethics.”
I’m sure, in his mind, it was OK and much less of an outrage for him to pocket the 45-cent tip.
Outrage is always in the eye of the beholder.
And outrage over ethics is usually about someone else’s ethics. Our own we let slide.
And if president Obama was the president in 1983 I am sure the same people would be blaming him for the Beirut bombing that killed 299 Americans, but Reagan was president so they let slide because he was their president. For the record, it has been proven that neither president really deserves the blame for either.
The dead Americans are the fault of those who killed them.
The rest is all just politics.


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