The Perils Of Cynicism

The Perils Of Cynicism

A friend recently sent me an email explaining some interesting facts about Mitt Romney. I’ve received enough stories of this kind, positive and negative, to know that the responsible thing to do is check them out at, or similar sites to determine their accuracy. In this case, the story passed the test.

In brief, it told how in 1996, the fourteen-year-old daughter of an executive at Romney’s firm, Bain Capital, had gone to a party in New York City, gotten high on Ecstasy, and disappeared. Three days later she was still missing.

Romney immediately shut down the firm’s office and took all thirty employees to New York, hired a detective, alerted the employees of other Bain affiliates, and supervised a massive effort to alert the public. Under his supervision, toll-free numbers were established, posters put up, and fliers distributed in stores. The entire effort was coordinated with the NYPD.

The girl was soon found in New Jersey suffering from drug withdrawal and in danger of death. Her father later said of Romney’s leadership, “It was the most amazing thing, and I’ll never forget this to the day I die.”

The email pointed out that such reactions are typical of Romney, adding that he is not only an unusually effective problem solver but that he has little concern for personal gain. As evidence, it cited the fact that he worked at Bain for $1 a year, donated his salary from the Olympics to charity, and took no salary at all as governor of Massachusetts.

I was impressed enough to pass the email along to some friends and family members, including both conservatives and liberals. Most responses were predictable and fit into one of these categories: “I liked him before, and now I like him much more”; “I wasn’t sure about him before, but this is the kind of information that could make me a supporter, though I’ll reserve judgment on that for a while”; “I didn’t like him before, and I still won’t vote for him, but he certainly behaved admirably in these cases.” Each of these views was, at very least, fair and responsible.

But one response caught me completely off guard. That friend wrote as follows:

Sorry Vince, nothing this man does makes me like him except when he says stupid things that prove he is so out of touch with reality.  I don’t see him coming to the rescue of poor people who really need help [and] his donations are just write-offs.  All politicians are out for themselves, GREED, GREED, GREED, and that goes for Dems, Rep, etc. Hope all is well.  Have a nice day.

That email made having a nice day a bit harder. I wondered if I should remain silent or respond? If the latter, what should I say? That it was unfair to judge Romney’s intention in rejecting a salary and charity demanded giving him the benefit of the doubt? That calling all politicians greedy and self-serving is a massive overgeneralization? After some reflection on my quandary, I got an idea. Here’s what I wrote:

When I read your reply, for some reason I thought of the Bible story of the good Samaritan who found the man on the side of the road, bound his wounds, took him to an inn, and told the innkeeper to nurse him to health and give him the bill on his return.

Then my imagination took over and I saw the innkeeper describing the Samaritan’s good deed to a passerby. The passerby said in reply, “I don’t see him coming to the rescue of anyone in need.”

Then I thought, that reply showed that the passerby didn’t get the point of the innkeeper’s story. It was about precisely what the passerby said wouldn’t happen—a Samaritan coming to someone’s need.   A good deed is a good deed—and we shouldn’t allow our like or dislike of the person obscure that fact. Moreover, even if we hate the person, we should still rejoice to learn that a fellow human being isn’t as bad as we had believed. It’s no different with Romney, Obama, or anyone else.

I sent that email several weeks ago and have yet to receive a reply. I’d like to think my friend’s reaction was uncommon, that the campaign for the presidency will be filled with more light than heat, and that people will be as accepting of uplifting stories as they are of depressing ones. But today’s cynicism runs deep, so I can’t say I feel confident.

Copyright © 2012 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero