Opinion by Matt Schepeler
The Brooklyn Exponent
When the news first broke that Jackson County Steve Rand had been caught on tape saying some vile comments, I was reluctant to believe it. In fact, I immediately thought that perhaps Rand had been caught up in a political correctness web designed to bring a good man down. Even if he had said some off-color comments, I reasoned, so what? We all say things that we regret.
Then I heard the tapes.
A little background: My experiences with Sheriff Rand have always been professional and mostly positive. He and his staff have always been quick to return our calls. Often, when I called his department, the sheriff would answer the phone himself and would take the time to pull files and comment about cases even during his busy days.
We had a minor run-in once when he felt that our newspaper had not presented his side of a story fairly, and frankly, he was right in that instance. But he didn’t hold it against us, and our professional relationship continued unhindered.
So I was disappointed when I heard the taped comments from a man I respected. What bothered me most was that someone in a powerful position, who needs to be above reproach, had apparently abused that power to belittle someone. I loathed the comments when I heard them. He should have known better.
Sheriff Steven Rand
But, still, one thing has been bothering me throughout this ordeal, as the firestorm has grown and the various agencies and individuals have called for the sheriff’s resignation, and that is this simple truth:
I am not above reproach, either.
Don’t take this the wrong way. I am not defending Rand’s comments. The ensuing questioning of his judgment is not a mere witch hunt, but a necessity. Those in powerful positions must be held to a higher standard.
But, still, there is this . . .
As a Christian who is serious about his faith, I try to hold myself to a higher standard. I have made some progress over the years but still manage to fall short, sometimes woefully so. This is especially true when it comes to the use of words.
I still find myself saying things to one person that I might not necessarily say to another.
I still catch myself saying things I don’t necessarily believe to be true in order to fall into agreement with people.
I still may make an off-color joke to one man that I would never say to another.
Thank goodness for the grace of God . . . and that the person I was talking to was not recording our conversations.
You see, words are tricky things that we struggle to tame. To highlight that point, one of my favorite books in the Bible, the book of Isaiah, gives a glimpse of what it is like for a mere human being to appear before a holy God. The one thing that stuck out most to Isaiah was this:
“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts.” (Is. 6:5, PNVKJB)
In other words, not one of us is capable of fully mastering our tongues.
Does this mean that Sheriff Rand’s comments should simply be forgiven and forgotten?
Forgetting what has been said might be too much to ask. The comments were toxic. The sheriff’s office is a political one, and the recorded comments will likely prove to be political suicide. And, truth be told, there are times we must face the consequences of our words. This might be one of them.
Woe is me, indeed.
But should he be forgiven? Yes. Of course, a thousand times yes. And those who are calling for Rand’s head need to remember their own shortcomings when offering their pointed advice from their lofty perches, especially when they are doing so online, anonymously, behind the safety of a screen name.
After all, when we take a good, hard look, we are really not all that different.
At least when we are being honest.