Cracked up

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

One of the best compliments I've ever received was from a pastor. He was actually referring to one of my Fatal Encounters stories where I didn't automatically follow the storyline handed over by the authorities about a druggie who was shot and killed by police, and I dug a little deeper. He called to invite me to an Easter Sunday service, which I declined, and to talk about the story, and one of the last things he said to me was, “I'll give you this, you've got integrity.”

I used to have integrity. I was an unrepentent whatever I was. But, you know, compromises wear a person down, even if it takes decades. Nobody is ever as resolute as when they were younger. OK, never say nobody. I'm sure some still go down fighting.

But lately, I've been thinking a bit about what it means to have integrity as a human being. We know what a structure with integrity is. A bridge with integrity has no cracks, right? One dictionary defines integrity as “the state of being whole and undivided.” But the word, as it relates to human beings, means more along the lines of being honest and having strong moral principles or moral uprightness. And I hate to say it, but that doesn't describe me the way it once did. I wish it did.

To me, having integrity is morally ambiguous. It's practicing what you preach or having the courage of your convictions or saying one thing and not doing another. In other words, a bad guy can have integrity. For example, Sandor Clegane or Tywin Lannister or Tony Soprano have integrity. So can good guys, although when you think about it, it's a lot easier for good guys to compromise their integrity. Until rap music came along and turned the concept of “sold out” on its head, integrity was related to that. It wasn't about not making money off your talent. It was more about not undervaluing your being and talents.

I don't know why this came up in my mind today. Maybe it's because I've been listening to some older punk rock, and I'd like to think I haven't softened those scruples that created lines in the sand 35 years ago.