Do As I Say, Not As I Do…
Hypocrisy is the most despicable of all human traits because it attempts to justify immoral acts by pretending to be moral. I was only 14 years old when I first observed this behavior and recognized it for what it was. Unfortunately, I saw it first in both my parents, and then in the parents of several of my friends.
This was the dawn of self-awareness for me -- the first time I was able to step outside myself and observe my relationship to my parents, my friends, and view the vast empty void hanging around all of us. It was frightening and loathsome; while I was too young to fully comprehend the creeping manifestation of evil around me, I implicitly understood that there was something wrong, something I needed to separate myself from if I could.
My father made the next to the last page in the Times Leader (local newspaper) twice before I graduated high school. The first time was when he raped a woman at work, the second was when he was driving home drunk and hit and killed a young lady with his car. There were no consequences available for either of his actions due to the exchange of money in both cases.
Naturally, I said nothing, because there really wasn't anything to say that would have made sense to anyone involved.
My mother was a different type of hypocrite, a narcissist and petty thief who had a blithely inane way to shake off her actions in the same manner we rapidly open and close an umbrella after the rain to try to remove the excess water. These, as well as several other events, made me turn inward -- a teenage recluse long before I would actually qualify for that title.
My parents divorced when I was a junior in college (my father was schtupping a young Korean woman) and I did not try to resurrect a relationship with him until the late 90s. While the first 10 minutes of our meeting after over 20 years of separation were pleasant, when he casually told me that he was in bed with two whores in France two weeks after I was born, I felt submerged in a filth that I could not wash off no matter how hard I tried. After I returned home that weekend, I never saw him again.
Looking back at these events I can't for the life of me understand where I found the strength to persevere. I know now that God had a plan for me and fortified my soul for the days to come. Weirdly though, these experiences took a back seat two other formidable acts of hypocrisy that I witnessed coming from the parents of some of my closer friends.
Charlie, who I had been friends with since I was five years old, abruptly terminated our relationship one day after summer vacation when I went over to his house to say hello. His parents were pulling him out of public school and putting him into a private Catholic school, and this was justification in their minds to make sure that he never had any more Jewish friends. We never spoke again after that.
I believe I already touched upon this other event in another blog post many moons ago, but I will resurrect here briefly -- it merely serves as a punctuation mark on this episode.
The father of another close friend tried to interfere with the process of me becoming an Eagle Scout because it meant that I would achieve this honor before his own son did, and he did his best to prevent this from happening. I've seen a lot of despicable shit in my life, but this was a little hard for me to swallow.
The stress was a tad more than I could handle -- I think I became the first teenager in my group of friends who took his first Valium at the age of 13. For many many years after this my mantra had become the famous quote of the philosopher Nietzsche: “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”
The number of people that my mother screwed out of money is legendary in Luzerne County. In her later years I urged her to get a living trust to avoid having her estate go into probate when she passed away; but this was impossible for her because she was blacklisted by every lawyer in the county for not paying her bills.
My brother, unfortunately, inherited all of their bad habits. He passed away just before he was about to be sentenced for insurance fraud. He was a lifelong gambler, like my father, who used to be so proud that he could go to Las Vegas with my stepmother and lose $40,000 at the roulette wheel. He saw this as some kind of badge of honor. My brother also had the dubious distinction of being flimflammed out of money by the Nigerian check kiting scheme, not once, but twice.
While I have never been accused of being an angel, I managed to stow away the characteristics of the rest of my family that were dark and forlorn. How I did this is anyone's guess, but maybe that's why later in my life I found peace through Christ and was able to tuck these memories away somewhere they could not disturb the ebb and flow of my day-to-day.
Being the black sheep in my family specifically because I could not adopt this air of hypocrisy as a constituent part of my being does not appear to have had any long-term negative effect on me. I continue to pray for my parents, my brother, my aunts and uncles and cousins; all of the people who discarded me as a seemingly useless appendage.
If there's anything left to make sense out of all of this, I have not been able to find it. I continue each day, left foot right foot, breathe in breathe out. I have close personal relationships with two hummingbirds in my backyard and several hawks, not an exaggeration, not a joke.
You can't take any baggage with you into the next life, so it makes sense to try to discard it as quickly as you possibly can.