I generally tend not to pay much attention when public figures have personal problems that make the news. There's some wiggle room in that, and I'm not quite sure how I'd describe the inconsistency. And it is inconsistent, though there does tend to be specific reasons that I think give cause. And one of those reasons tends to be drunk driving, since that takes the issue out of the realm of mere privacy, and becomes a public matter that puts others at risk. Also, when the person themselves decides to make things public.
Swimmer Michael Phelps, who has the most medals in Olympic history, was arrested for driving at 84 mph in a 45 mph zone at 1:40 Tuesday morning, and then failed several field sobriety tests. He also crossed over the center lines several times.
In a series of tweets, he posted the following --
I like Michael Phelps. And that sounds very nice what he wrote. (Well, it's doesn't sound "very" nice -- it sounds nice. How "very" nice can three tweets sound when you're charged with drunk driving and going 84 MPH in a 45 MPH zone?) But as nice as it sounds, there is a big problem with it.
You see, this isn't the first time that Michael Phelps has been charged with a DUI. The first time was in 2004, when he was fined and given an 18-month probation. But that isn't the problem. The problem is that at the time of that first DUI, he told the judge --
"I recognize the seriousness of this mistake. I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.”
Clearly Michael Phelps didn't recognize the seriousness of his mistake. And just as clearly he didn't learn from this mistake. And the only thing he clearly continued doing was drinking and driving. And it appears that the only thing he learned is that saying, "I recognize the seriousness of this mistake" sounds really good, particularly if people have a short memory.
And then there are those empty words that sound good on the surface. "I take full responsibility."
Well...yeah! I mean, who else would be responsible?? Even partially? You were driving drunk. But that aside -- because I'm fine when someone takes full responsibility for their actions -- I'm trying to figure out what it means? If you actually do "take full responsibility"...what consequences do you impose upon yourself, other than feeling "deeply sorry"?? Because that's pretty thin, when you get down to it.
Especially because the reason you should feel "deeply sorry" isn't because you let down people -- it's because you put the lives of innocent people at risk.
As I said, I like Michael Phelps. And it would appear that he has a drinking problem, though I don't know. Maybe he just is a horribly bad party drinker. But I sure hope he figures out what understanding the seriousness of his actions and taking full responsibility actually means,
Especially before he kills someone or himself.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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