When it was revealed last week that a French judge had been "pressured" to award a gold medal to a lesser-level figure-skating pair, there wasn't a Winter Games watcher alive who didn't recoil as if poked with a cattle prod. How was it possible, we all wondered, for anyone to reach the moral conclusion that damn justice, damn fair play, damn the cost winning is everything.
The Olympics fiasco, however, is not the only current event which brings that question to mind. There are also the campaigns being waged by our own mayoral and town council candidates.
Over the past week or so, this slate of office hopefuls has been trooping onto the radio airwaves to demonstrate their skill at politicking. What too often emerges, however, is old-fashioned mudslinging not only by their opponents, but their talk-show callers, who invariably behave as if the tiny mudballs in their hands are SCUD missiles.
When the subject of mudslinging arises, some candidates can be relied upon to rant about how an opponent was the first to start it ... and that the only reason they are responding is to clear their good names and to prove what scoundrels their opponents are ... thus very effectively continuing the mudslinging.
Yes, character assassination and other forms of negative campaigning are nearly as old as American politics. Heck, back in 1796, supporters of John Adams charged his presidential challenger, Thomas Jefferson, with atheism, sexual improprieties, and dangerous revolutionary intentions.
The solution then is the solution now. It is up to the voters to demand that, instead of preying on our worst human qualities, our candidates build on the best. That they focus their campaigns on the issues and on their own qualifications to serve. And that they set an example of integrity and respect for the public damn the cost.