Friday, December 30, 2005

2 + 2 = 4? Well, Kind Of

I don’t think it’s just me; I think it’s a facet of human nature. But when I’m introduced to new information, I try to assimilate it into a narrative that makes sense to me. When I meet people for the first time, I subconsciously take the things they tell me about themselves and combine that with my impressions to form images of these people and the lives they lead. Now, are these images always correct? Probably not. Can people give me misleading information that leads me to form false conclusions? Inevitably. But nevertheless, that’s the way my brain functions, and I suspect that I’m not alone.

That’s why I was so surprised to recently hear a friend talking about Steve Filson’s divorce. You see, I’d read the “Biography” section of his website, the one where he says, “My wife Mary and I have four children and recently our first grandchild has joined the family.” And I attended the meeting of the San Ramon Valley Democratic Club back in October, when Filson spent quite a bit of time talking about his background; I heard him describe his family life. In his account of the evening, VPO gave us this description: “Moved to Danville in 1978, been a Tri-valley resident since then, kids went to UCal Berkeley, he went to church and attended soccer games -- the whole suburban family bit.”

Now, maybe I’m making something out of nothing here; it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve ever done that. But it just seems strange to me that, in this day and age, Filson wouldn’t just be straightforward and say something in his “Biography” like, “My wife Mary and I each have two children from previous marriages, and recently my/her first grandchild has joined the family.” That, at least to me, would have been a lot more acceptable than the careful parsing of “My wife Mary and I have four children and recently our first grandchild has joined the family.” Because, you see, I’m left feeling like I was manipulated, like Mr. Filson purposely tried to create a false image of a happy nuclear family that he thought would be somehow more palatable than the reality of a blended family.

The notion of honesty is going to play a big role in this election. And engaging in subterfuge, however irrelevant it may be, is not a really great way to establish yourself as a man of integrity.

5 Comments:

Blogger A. Citizen said...

Is this guy honest? In my humble opinion: Not so much.

The first criterion we gotta have for any progressive candidate is honesty. Without that yer a dead duck goin' up against the lyin' ReThugs. But even more than that tactical consideration I believe if you want to lead people and that is what politics is all about, not lining your pockets or oppressing others, you need to be honest with you constituents and yourself. Period.

No more need be said.

5:10 PM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous some guy said...

I think I disagree. It may be possible that he, like other people in "mixed families" consider his new wife's children as his own. Besides that maybe it's just that flatly stating that he is remarried isn't a priority as opposed to the issues of the campaign.

Or he could be a lying politician. Who knows?

6:04 AM, January 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on! You have got to be kidding me with this stuff. No wonder Democrats can't win, with supporters like this.

12:25 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

I will leave hear part of a comment I left at another site when Jbmendel tried to take me to task for this post:

I have never mentioned anything negative about Steve Filson's family life on my blog. One of my co-authors did write a post prompted by her discovery that Steve Filson has been divorced. But the relevant issue was not Filson's marital status but rather his lack of forthrightness about his marital status.

Steve Filson wants us to trust him, but he needs to earn that trust by acting in an open and frank manner. There is nothing scandalous about the fact that Steve Filson has been divorced. I come from a blended family and each of my parents had been married before they met each other. Furthermore, not only is his divorce a matter of public record, it's apparently something at least relatively well-known among his colleagues at United Airlines (which is how my co-author found out about it).

Given all of this, one might expect that Filson would find a diplomatic way to discuss the issue (remember, he is the one who brought up his family life) without leaving a patently false impression. I can understand his reluctance to discuss the issue, but he cannot both extol his family life on one hand and on the other hand hold it above scrutiny. That said, I would not bring up anything unduly salacious.

I know for a fact that my co-authors and I have censored what we have written to ensure that nothing we write could provide Pombo with a club to use against the eventual nominee. But a) Steve Filson couldn't possibly have hoped to keep this cat in the bag if he goes against Pombo, and b) we viewed the fact of the divorce to be relatively innocuous. Again, the issue is not about the divorce, but about Filson's credibility.


I would add that I personally would be more forgiving about this issue if it did not reinforce the pre-existing concerns I had about Filson's credibility. In isolation I can see how the divorce might be considered irrelevant or otherwise unworthy of notice. But it is just one more example of a concern I am particularly sensitive to. And I take it that Babaloo views this in a similar way (although I hesitate to speak for her).

12:37 PM, January 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright people, get real. Do you really expect the website of someone trying to get elected to NOT report the rosiest version of themselves as possible. Sheesh, give me a freaking break. The man is trying to get elected and I think his stance on the ISSUES is the most important thing, NOT whether he has been divorced and dealt with it in the way YOU find to be the most appropriate. He didn't lie at all. He simply didn't take out a four page ad proclaiming his exact martial history. I think accusing him of "lying" is specious at best, not to mention self defeating if you actually want Pombo out of office. If you have a problem with Mr. Filson's stance on an issue, I think that would be a valid criticism and so be it. He certianly isn't as progressive as my "perfect" candidate would be. Attacking they way he reports a divorce, however, isn't relavant or productive. Further, the assertion that his family life was misrepresented is also faulty. Blended families are pretty typical of a "suburban" exhistance.

1:37 PM, January 27, 2006  

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