Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Book Recommendation: Mistakes Were Made (but Not By Me)


Mistakes Were Made (but Not By Me) Third Edition: Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson


This is a terrific and disturbing book by two social psychologists. Terrific because it explains a lot of the behavior you see both around you and nationally. Disturbing because, unless you are the Queen of Denial, you will also see yourself. One hopes it will lead you to understand other people better and correct such tendencies in yourself.


I graduated from U-Mass with a BA in government in June of 1972, and in November I defeated an incumber state senator by nine votes. I serve fived two-year terms and retired undefeated in 1982. My colleagues thought I was hopelessly naïve (I was 26 when first elected) and a bit of a prig because I wouldn’t accept gifts or meals from lobbyists. I’d see them after the session trolling the halls for a dinner “sponsor.” Both parties, I might add. Six of my colleagues eventually served time. This book explains how it happened. None of them started out to be corrupt.


I also know how hard it is for a politician to admit he was wrong. The other party and the media stands ready to rip him (or her) to shreds. No one says, “How brave to admit he was wrong.”


I had a lung transplant in 2013. From 2017 until 2021, I worked part time at the VA interviewing veterans and writing their life stories, over 450 to date. I still volunteer. Two stories stand out because they were such wild and easily identifiable fabrications. One guy claimed he was drafted a 16, had 134 kills as a sniper in Vietnam, served in the Gulf War and later did two tours each in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also claimed that twice he had entered the oval office and insulted the then president, as though you could just stroll in.


The other claimed he was born in Egypt, was discovered in his teens, and toured the country with a famous rock band. But he was not the band member whose name he used.


I wondered who would believe such lies? This book answers that; the tellers believed their own stories.


My Marine DIs taught us to take responsibility for our actions. Though I know I have often fallen short, I try to live up to that. This book will help everyone take responsibility. And to understand those who won’t. I highly recommend it.

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