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Kirby: Why pester people about their pasts?

Published June 25, 2013 8:52 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Joshua Kyler Hoggan, 18, wants to be mayor of Roy. He's running for office even though he has a dark past. He pleaded guilty last year to felony possession of a weapon of mass destruction.

Everyone in Roy knows this. Hoggan admitted to plotting to blow up his high school, served time in a juvenile facility and now wants to enter the political arena.

The question is whether voters will consider Hoggan's qualifications (I have no idea if he has any) over his sordid past?

The answer, of course, is no. We are a nation of scolds. Even if Hoggan were capable of balancing the national budget, we'd never let him.

Hoggan is an extreme example. Plotting to blow up schools is genuinely disconcerting. Would you vote someone in charge of the very police department that once arrested him?

Note: I would, but then I love irony. A more practical answer would be "no."

In America, we love to pester people about their pasts. Our pasts are our own individual bombs. Just ask Southern cooking queen Paula Deen. Food Network on Friday declined to renew the contract for her popular cooking show, at least in part because she admitted to having said the N-word before.

Keep in mind that no proof exists that Deen ever actually rode with the Klan. At worst it's only certain that she was raised fallibly human in the Deep South where, judging from what I've seen of her show, she apparently learned to talk through her sinus.

But the Food Network doesn't tolerate discrimination of any sort. It's OK that Deen's been actively killing people since 2002 by exhorting them to eat butter with a shovel, but saying "n!@@$r" a long time ago could well be a career killer.

Closer to home, Miss Utah recently ruined the rest of her life by giving a lame answer to a question about the value of women. She'll never live it down. We won't let her.

Someday, possibly when Marissa Powell is being considered for the job of NATO secretary general or even just a convenience store clerk, somebody will remember that she fumbled the answer to "Are pageant women babes?"

Could something similar happen to you? Unless you were born last year, the answer is yes. Your personal history bomb started ticking as soon as you learned to talk. This stuff is recorded and then remembered.

I know that it would happen to me, which is why I make sure that it does. When I was interviewed for this job, I tried confessing to every rotten thing I'd ever done so that it wouldn't come as a surprise later.

Me: "And when I was 12 I ran over my sister's Barbie with the lawn mower. On purpose. When she got mad, I said …"

Editor: "OK, that's enough. Shut up now. Please!"

It used to be that America was the place where people could make something of themselves by letting go of stuff. Not anymore. We won't let them.

Today it's almost impossible to rise to the level of our potential because we're too busy living down our pasts.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.