The Informant (and the liars we have known)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We watched "The Informant" last night, the utterly compelling real-life story of ADM vice president/informant Mark Whitacre who "wanted to do the right thing" and so began a campaign to bring down his agri-business company, then caught up in an industry-wide price-fixing scheme.  It seems a noble ambition, but Whitacre himself is far from noble—a man who has built his life on a series of fault lines and who cannot seem to keep track of his own lies.  His parents didn't die in a car accident when he is six, as he has always told his colleagues.  Whitacre didn't just personally embezzle $10,000, or $500,000 or $5 million; perhaps, he acknowledges, in the film's final line, that number was much higher.  He forges not only checks but a note from a doctor, which explains away all his actions with a bi-polar diagnosis.  He promises not to speak of the case to anyone and ends up tattling on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  On and on, Whitacre (played brilliantly by Matt Damon) goes, telling his lies, remorseless.

"The Informant" is based on the book Whitacre himself wrote and in interviews he seems pleased with the authenticity of the film—pleased, in other words, to be portrayed as a man who cannot stop lying, no matter how much it hurts himself, his wife, or others.  It still, all these years later, feels justifiable or defensible to him; he still sees himself as the good guy.  The whole thing is head-scratching and nearly impossible, but it does bring to mind others I have known who have spun webs of grandiose mistruths, shattered promises, destroyed their families, and mercilessly wounded others.  When the going gets tough (when the law seems on to them, or their spouses), these folks tend to flee.  When it looks like it's safe again (when they won't get caught, at least this time), they return.  And then they wonder why their old friends are cautious, why picking up where they left off is not actually an option.  True friends forgive, they say.

But at what point does forgiving facilitate more of the same?  And doesn't trust lie at the foundation of all friendships?


Amy said...

Forgiveness is first for the sake of our own hearts--we don't have to extend it unless someone asks. We aren't meant to bear the weight of judgment against others. However, that doesn't mean there are no consequences, no trust that needs to be earned back. We can care for someone without trusting them. Forgiveness that ignores such behavior opens the door for abuse.

It's an important distinction. I drop a crystal glass in my kitchen, it shatters. I can't talk it into re-making itself. And so are consequences for our behavior. We have the power to be great influencers, for good or for ill. Ignoring that power diminishes the humanity of the person, however poorly it is stewarded.

bermudaonion said...

That sounds like some story.

True friends do forgive, but it's difficult to be true friends with someone you can never trust.

septembermom said...

It is hard to forgive recurring deceptive behavior. You can hope that the person sees the light and moves away from such destructive behavior. I agree with Amy's comment.

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