I’m Not Perfect, But You Better Be!

I’m Not Perfect, But You Better Be!

President Barack Obama talked to The Today Show’s Matt Lauer about British Petroleum’s oil leak, which threatens the entire ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. Memorably, the president told Lauer that he engages experts so he knows whose ass to kick.

It’s a telling statement, revealing much about Obama, where we’re headed as a society, and each of us as individuals. Here’s why.

Evidence shows a worker failed to leave a note for his shift replacement about a gas bubble in a pipe that had been closed off.

Why is Obama looking for someone to whip? Why does society approve? Are we all so punishment-oriented that the thought of our president kicking someone’s ass feels good?

Our Knower/Judger can certainly arrive at the “truth” that the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is BP’s responsibility and they should be punished. Feels good to agree with that, huh? Big business run amok! Punish them.

An Alternative

Let’s look at another recent news story. Armando Galarraga almost became the 21st pitcher in major league history to face the minimum number of batters and pitch a perfect game. His final batter got a ground ball and was clearly thrown out at first base when umpire Jim Joyce called the runner safe at first. Media video of the incident clearly shows Joyce was in error on the call, and had ruined the perfect game.

In striking contrast to Obama, Galarraga did not call for Joyce’s butt to be kicked. Instead, he accepted Joyce’s error as human, called the veteran umpire professional, and conceded that people make mistakes.

What a concept!

In both situations, human error led to something going wrong. Yes, the oil leak has had devastating consequences—11 people lost their lives and the ecology along the Louisiana and Alabama coastline will take decades to recover. But it was a mistake.

It is important to figure out what to do to ensure a leak like this never happens again. But do we really need to rant and rage and punish someone or something to do that? Or are we just satisfying an emotional need? Why not put that energy into developing a solution and preventing accidents in the future?

Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, has ruled that he will not overturn the error that ruined Galarraga’s perfect game. Congratulations, Mr. Commissioner. This ruling preserves the sanctity of the on-field call by human judges.

Where do you have the opportunity to let go of the emotional need to punish? Did you get cut off on the interstate this morning? Not treated well at the local Starbucks? Direct report didn’t quite meet your expectations? Son or daughter disappoint you?

Armando Galarraga for President.

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2 Responses to “I’m Not Perfect, But You Better Be!”

  1. Laurel June 17, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    Great article and important message. The BP disaster is a bit larger scale than the loss of a perfect game, but Armando’s acceptance of the error and ability to be gracious given the circumstances is remarkable. Armando’s behavior is certainly a good example and gives us all something to aspire to duplicate.

  2. Kim June 21, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Laurel,

    Thanks for your comment. I think opportunities to punish or forgive present themselves frequently. I chose these two examples for their recent newsworthiness, however most real-world examples appear to be so insignificant as to be ignored and therein lies the problem. We don’t see them as opportunities to change our normal knee-jerk response to punish, flame, or get even. And the opportunity is lost. And nothing changes. Sigh.

    Kim

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