Covering sports for a while now, I’ve heard “That’s not who I am” more times than I can count. It’s not restricted to sports, of course. Every public figure who has gotten caught doing something they shouldn’t uses that line. “That’s not who I am.”
Whether it’s being publicly drunk, or failing a drug test, using a racial or gay slur, misogyny, committing sexual assault, using performance enhancing drugs, or various other transgressions, that’s what they tell you. Heard it from every sport at every level. “That’s not who I am.”
But it is.
If you do it, that’s who you are. It’s part of you. It may not be all of you, but it’s some percentage of the person you are. It’s within you, somewhere. And I say that as someone who’s written awful and stupid things on his own blog back in the day, and here at times. While I’d like to say it’s not who I am, clearly it is. It’s not all of who I am, but I’m capable of it. It’s part of me. I have to be vigilant to see it out of me from here on out.
“It’s not who I want to be.”
That would be the proper phrase. But in order to utter that, and mean it, there is an admittance in there of failing and that there is work to do. Reflection to take. An admission that no matter how old you are, you have not lived up to the ideals you have of yourself. You still have a road to travel. That can be sobering, upsetting, depressing, hard. But we don’t do sobering around here.
There were many things bouncing around my head furiously as I watched yesterday unfold. I’m sure you’re no different. That’s only one of many thoughts, but it seemed the preeminent one. Our president-elect and others saying, “This is not who we are. This is not America.”
But it is. It is who we are.
Again, it might not be entirely who we are. Maybe not even half. But it’s certainly a large part of who we are. And how can you fix any of it when you won’t even admit it? How can there be evolution without reflection?
Simply saying it’s not who you are implies it’s merely a blip, a misstep, and that no work need be done. A ghost in the machine. You don’t have to go through everything and figure out what needs fixing. It’s simply a lugnut or bolt here or there that needs tightening, instead of a scan of the whole structure. The latter is something we just haven’t done in this country. That’s what happens when you keep telling yourself you’re No. 1 without a hint of self-awareness.
That’s how you get such a sense of entitlement, that a group of peaceful protesters simply asking to be treated like everyone else gets beaten and gassed, but a group of fuckwits attempting a coup get a velvet rope, selfies with cops and a helping hand, souvenirs, and a post-raid interview.
The former was, in some ways, pointing out that we are not what we claim to be and we have much work to do. The latter laid it bare. Who got the more welcoming response?
Maybe that’s the base problem. This country is built on the promise of financial security. The American Dream is strictly material instead of ethical. Your house, your yard, your security. And when anyone points out that it’s not available to everybody, and perhaps the desperation to hold onto it by some is keeping others from having access to it, it’s being said that we aren’t who we want to be. And they lash out.
That doesn’t mean the U.S. can’t be what we want it to be. It absolutely can be. We saw it just the previous day in Georgia. But to get there, we have to admit that we have a problem, and acknowledge where we are and who we are now, which is what we saw yesterday. There is so much more to be done, so much more self-reflection.
Next time you hear anyone say, “That’s not who I am,” you’ll know that’s exactly who they are.