A heavy smoker, James' mother suffered from emphysema and died a slow death. When I asked James more specifically about her death, he replied "I was there."
"It was horrible. I watched her struggle for her last breath," he blurted out, then glanced at me with the recognition of what he had said.
In politics, good communications teams will always sit down with their candidates prior to an election and ask the all-important question:
Why do you want to run?
This is largely a framing exercise - how do you create a narrative that is reflective of your past achievements and positions and will resonate with your target voters. All to often, the issue at question is how to sell the candidate, not what is really driving the candidate to run.
The same applies to education, to career choices, to choices of partners or hobbies. We tend to think about why we make a certain choice after the fact, trying to figure out how that decision fits within our perceptions of ourselves.
But how often do we scratch beneath the surface to really ask and explore why we do the things we do?
Why would someone who is anti-crime consort with criminals, or someone that believe strongly in accountability refuse to accept accountability himself?
The easy answer is that these people have no moral compass, that they will sell whatever line it takes to get ahead. It's pretty simple, but it also misses a key point - anyone selling one message while practising another has to square the difference internally as well.
Rob Ford is an international example of this in practise. Ford is increasingly being shown as representative of everything he stands firmly against; he also has some seriously unresolved daddy/legacy issues (well-respected political dad was Doug; string-puller brother is Doug; son is Doug. The Mayor met with a drug dealer in Doug Ford Park). Oddly enough, Robbie is now filling and failing at a political position of power for which he is ill-equipped, but refuses to give up.
Across the world, including right here in Canada, we have governments standing against externally behaviours they are increasingly practising internally. Again, the people in charge wrap themselves into pretzels or shrink their media presence to unwavering speaking points as their former values wilt all around them. They see but through a mirror darkly; the world they see becomes a reflection of the confict they rationalize within.
Political bloggers will in one post espouse cynical trickery, then vilify the very sort of political play they themselves dabble in through the next.
Are they any different from us? We rationalize the phone call we didn't return into the friend we're no longer close to, or the corner we cut as justified for any of a host of reasons. It suits our purpose to tear down others, not to make ourselves look better, but as justification for the skeletons in our own closets.
The action comes first, then justification follows - yet it's through the justification that we define our frames of self. We don't don't delve in to the why, perhaps because we are afraid what we'll learn may shatter the glass houses of our self-images, or maybe simply because we don't know how - nor that we could.
Forgive us lord, we know not why we do. We're trapped in a prison of the mind, a confabulation of our own making.