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A hope note

I had a college professor who wrote a quotation on the blackboard at the beginning of every class. One I remember: ‘Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.’ I don’t think I got it at the time, but I did sense there was something profound there.
Hypocrisy is on my mind these days. Some of it, I’m sure, relates to this election year and self-righteous pronouncements from politicians who will say almost anything to get elected. The poster boy today is Rep. Tim Mahoney of Florida. He got elected on a pledge to restore morality to the seat vacated by Rep. Mark Foley after Foley was caught in a sex scandal involving teenage pages. Now Mahoney, a husband and father, has confessed that he cheated on his wife with two women.
Ministers who preach lofty ideals set themselves up for charges of ‘not practicing what they preach.’ Martin Luther, who taught that the responsibility of every Christian is to be ‘a little Christ’ to neighbors, was anti-semitic, frequently quoted by the Nazis to justify the Holocaust. Luther wrote a book, ‘On the Jews and Their Lies,’ where he called Jews a ‘base, whoring people’ who are full of the ‘devil’s feces which they wallow in like swine.’ He wrote that Jews should be shown no mercy and that their synagogues and schools should be set on fire. So much for being a little Christ to your neighbor.
Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence with its soaring ‘all men are created equal’ affirmation, but he himself owned 150 slaves, and probably owes his victory in the 1800 presidential election to the clause in the Constitution that allowed masters to count their slaves as three-fifths of a person.
Hypocrisy, Forrest Gump would say, is as hypocrisy does.

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