Toledo mayor too involved, good intentions become soiled

Phil Schurrer and Phil Schurrer

Carty Finkbeiner never met Nicolas Chauvin. For one thing, there’s some doubt as to whether Chauvin, a French soldier supposedly born in 1780, even existed. Nevertheless, Chauvin’s name has long been associated with excessive fervor, especially of a nationalistic, ideological or political sort.

Mr. Finkbeiner is the current mayor of Toledo. To some, he represents the essence of civic pride and dedication. To others, he is a public embarrassment.

The record of his faux past is filled with outbursts, intemperate actions and, in general, has created unwanted attention to a city already down on its luck.

What would cause an otherwise seasoned politician to resort to such politically incorrect remarks as advocating the sale of homes near Toledo Express Airport to the deaf? Why would a politician who has helped Toledo experience its large recent downtown building growth become personally involved with breaking up a fight in a city park?

There are no easy answers. But perhaps a clue might be the tendency of some people to become so involved with their jobs, so focused on their activities, that they lose the ability to step back and gain some perspective by looking at the overall picture of who they are, what they do and how their activities fit into the grand scheme of things.

The English language has a word that’s seldom used today, but might be of some value in this discussion. The word is ‘equanimity.’ It’s derived from two Latin words that literally translate into the phrase ‘equal spirits.’

A good synonym for equanimity might be ‘balance.’ A person who possesses this characteristic is able to integrate the various portion of his or her life into a meaningful whole. The needs of the body, mind, spirit, and emotions are met in the appropriate way. There’s time for sleep, exercise, study, kicking back with friends, and solitude.

When we are reasonably successful in achieving this balance, we are said to be integrated. If we consistently fail, there is a danger that we could disintegrate.

There’s no suggestion that Finkbeiner is unbalanced in the clinical sense of the word, although his detractors might disagree. Nevertheless, undue dedication can sometimes lead to poor outcomes. There is a time to build up, to tear down, to rend, to sew – and sometimes to keep one’s mouth shut.

The Law of Unintended Consequences sometimes comes into play. Finkbeiner’s personal involvement in breaking up a fight garnered headlines around the world. My son in Ann Arbor saw it mentioned on Internet news. Any possible good that would have accrued from Carty-as-peacemaker was more than offset by bad publicity on a worldwide scale.

There are several lessons here for those who understand. First, no one should regard him or herself as so important as to take a personal stand on every issue that he or she might be tangentially affected by. Second, no one is as good as he or she should be, or as bad as he or she could be. Third, in the long run, none of us is so important that our faults and failures will be hidden by our good deeds.

A line from the movie ‘The Sting’ comes to mind. Robert Redford and Paul Newman are in a train station evaluating their prey, a gangster, from afar. Redford sizes the villain up and dismissively tells Newman, ‘He’s not so tough.’ Newman’s immediate response, one that’s pertinent here: ‘Neither are we, kid.’ No one is so tough, good, important, essential, or smart as to justify bad conduct.

Finkbeiner means well, no doubt. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Toledo’s had enough hell.