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Monday, July 27, 2009

In Praise of Chris Daly's Hypocrisy

Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Supervisor Chris Daly
  • Supervisor Chris Daly
Those of us who don't fancy ourselves to be Che Guevara have had a lot of fun this past week attacking Chris Daly for being a hypocrite. Those of us who believe that someday we will lead the revolution have praised Daly by saying he remains ideologically pure.

Both sides have got it all wrong. Chris Daly's hypocrisy is real -- yet praiseworthy.

That's because, in a situation like his, the alternatives to hypocrisy are all so much worse. There's a word for someone who will sacrifice the welfare of other human beings to stay politically pure. It's not "hypocrite," it's "fanatic." What we saw last week was a man stepping back from that precipice.

Daly is right to do what he thinks is best for his family, end of story. That shouldn't even be up for discussion. Bevan Dufty's daughter aside, children are not political props to be used to illustrate a point. That's what PowerPoint (and church) is for.

Sure I thrill whenever a politician puts his kids in public school or stays in his "old" neighborhood -- but that thrill comes with the understanding that they're doing it because it meets their approval as a parent. I'd be horrified to learn that a politician kept his kids in a neighborhood he thought would be bad for them. Or that he hadn't considered how it would affect them at all.

If we can judge a society by how it treats the weakest among us, then, people: Take care of your kids. Do what you think is best for them.

That Daly is willing to do that, though it makes him a target of ridicule and has opened him up to considerable inconvenience, says better things about him than a fawning Guardian endorsement ever could.

Does this make him a hypocrite? Naturally: You can't spend nine years accusing your enemies of trying to turn the city into suburbia, then move to suburbia to get your kids out of the city, without being as inconsistent as Bernie Madoff's balance sheet.

But the kind of hypocrisy that leads a man to make the right decision for his family can't be all bad; in fact, it's an essential element of a functioning society. Without at least a little hypocrisy, there can be no compromise: And without compromise, life is nasty, brutish, and short.

There can be no pragmatism without this kind of hypocrisy, because ideals never fit a particular circumstance as well as they do an abstract one. Tolerance for others likewise requires the ability to tolerate in others what is unacceptable for you -- a hypocritical act if ever there was one.

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Benjamin Wachs


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