Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's Up With Society These Days?

Over the last month and a half I’ve grown more and more frustrated and disheartened by the ethics and scruples of the world of journalism. And also by the lack of empathy that people seem to have for their fellow human beings. During this time I’ve told myself repeatedly that it’s just a result of how much our society has become desensitized to the hardships that each of us faces in life. But that’s really just a nice way to say that society is spawning a bunch of jerks these days.

I would really like to rant and rave against all of these people. To ask the general public why they’re so quick to believe the negative about a person instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt. To ask how they can pass judgment on someone when they have no idea what it’s like to walk in that person’s shoes. And why they want to kick people when they’re down instead of extending a hand to help them back up.

I’d also like to remind a few journalists of a little something called a professional code of ethics, which calls for accuracy and factual reporting. And ask them whatever came of harm limitation principles that advise journalists to show compassion for those who may be adversely affected by their reports. Those same principles also encourage media members to show good taste in their articles and avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. When did those codes of conduct go out the window?

Mostly I have just been disappointed with the reactions people have had. I honestly thought that people would at least give some encouragement to AJ for trying to make the best of a bad situation and learning something from it instead of everyone just focusing on the details of what happened. Since when is making a stupid mistake not worthy of showing someone compassion? I don’t know – maybe it’s just me who is living in an era that doesn’t exist anymore. Or maybe I just don’t have it in me to be that negative of a person.

The biggest thing that hit me in this entire situation was when Jeff Gluck said he felt sorry for AJ fans. That was really surprising to me and instantly made me mad because I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I really don’t have anything to feel sorry about. Am I sad that I can’t watch AJ race at the moment? Yeah, I am. But I’m mostly sad about that because I know how much AJ wants to be racing and not because I’m out anything.

I don’t feel sorry for myself because I still have someone to root for – AJ! I’m not cheering for him to drive fast in a circle, I’m cheering for him to find some balance in his life and to be happy again. I’m rooting for him to pick himself up and dust off his britches. I’d love to see him make a comeback in NASCAR, but even if it never happens I’ll still be on the sidelines cheering for him in his life. And I truly think the people Jeff Gluck should feel sorry for are the ones who seem to take such glee in other people’s misfortune.

I understand why people don’t believe AJ. I could try and convince everyone that AJ is being honest. I have been lucky enough to make a lot of contacts in the NASCAR world, and especially among those people who know AJ personally. Friends, family, media members, crew guys, sponsor reps, PR people. People who either know the sport or who know AJ inside and out. I could share all the things that those “credible sources” have told me and try to make everyone just as certain as I am that AJ’s being completely truthful. But why bother?

The bottom line is that people are going to believe whatever they want to believe. If you think AJ is lying then you can come up with a dozen “sources” to back up that fact. And if you think AJ is telling the truth then you can come up with just as many “sources” to back that up, too. It all comes down to a basic opinion – you either believe AJ or you don’t. I could talk until I’m blue in the face and it won’t change that basic opinion. Yeah, maybe I’ll make a point or two that could make you think about whether your opinion is the right one. I might even sway one or two people into changing their minds, but to be honest it just isn’t worth the aggravation to me to try and defend my opinion.

Which is the exact same reason why it isn’t worth it for AJ to try and convince people he’s being honest. He has stated his version of what happened – there’s no amount of additional information that will change that. Right now he doesn’t need the distraction of getting into a debate over it. He needs to focus on completing his Road to Recovery program, getting reinstated by NASCAR, finding a job and a sponsor, and oh yeah – that simple little project he’s trying to undertake of turning his life around!

Come on people – what’s really important right now? Is it satisfying your curiosity over all the little details of what happened during this one instance of someone else’s life, or is it more important to show some support to a fellow human being who, no matter what those circumstances were, is trying to face the monumental task of dealing with his own personal issues? I just don’t understand society’s need to rehash everything out there that is negative and their unwillingness to just let it go and realize that sometimes things are just what they seem.

Oh yes, I’ve heard all the arguments against AJ, but most of them boil down to this basic sentiment: “AJ’s story doesn’t sound believable. He sounds just like every drug addict out there who says it was just a one time thing.” And I will grant you that argument – the story doesn’t sound believable. And it does sound just like what a drug addict would say. But doesn’t it also sound like something that a person would say if they really did just naively take a pill one time and then randomly got pulled for a drug test the next day?

The bottom line is that you either believe AJ or you don’t – all I’m asking is for people to look carefully into why they don’t believe him. And realize that in the end, it truly doesn’t matter whether he is telling the truth or lying. Right now what’s important is that AJ is trying to get his life back in focus and doesn’t need the constant distraction of sensational journalists yapping at his heels. I don’t buy into this whole “the other side of the story needs told.” No, it doesn’t. Because there is no “other side” to the story – AJ’s side is the only one there is. Now if there was irrefutable proof that AJ was lying, then maybe I’d agree that it needed told. But the only person who knows 100% what happened is AJ and he’s already told his story. No amount of continued speculation either for or against him can prove anything. Let it be done so the guy can work on getting his priorities straight.

I’ve made it known that I believe AJ completely, but I’ve never said why. And I’m not going to because I don’t need to defend my belief and it sure isn’t my job to defend AJ. People have called me na├»ve, stupid, illogical, even an enabler because I think AJ is telling the truth. But trust me, I am none of those things. I am a highly intelligent, very analytical, and for the most part a very skeptical person. I have spent my entire life and even made a career out of picking apart every bit of data that I can find and scrutinizing it. So you either believe that through my contacts I have enough information to make an informed decision and that I’ve looked into every possibility before forming my opinion. Or you don’t. But either way – I think people should at the very least try to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Instead of kicking him when he’s down, try wishing AJ the best of luck in attempting to get his life back in order.