April Fools

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It is a presidential election year, and self-righteousness flows like alcohol on New Year's Eve. So this is a good time to recognize that each of us is often wrong. I don't mean morally wrong as in lying cheating or stealing. I mean wrong in the sense of a mistaken judgment. As in, "Here's a good idea: let's invade Iraq." I mention that particular misjudgment because it was so spectacularly wrong and it was one of mine. It eclipsed even "O.J. will be convicted because the evidence proves he is guilty." That was another one of mine.

Which brings me to my moralistic view of April Fools' Day. It's a day for pranks and fooling around, which is fine, but it should also be a day for acknowledging that the joke is on us. We are all April fools and have the track records to prove it.

So I say admit it. Imagine a day on which every person said, "I was wrong; I blew it," and explained how. That would be an excellent day to read a newspaper column, talk to the boss, even listen to a politician. At the risk of getting carried away, I think it would be a more peaceful day, too. It's harder to fight while admitting fallibility. Call it ego disarmament.

It is not necessary to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, to express remorse. These are misjudgments, not sins, we are admitting. Besides, the point isn't to wipe the slate clean, only to acknowledge how unclean it is. Self-understanding is valuable in itself and hard enough to achieve without wearing a hairshirt.

Happy Misjudgment Day. I'm OK. You're OK, and we're all demonstrably less smart than we would like to think.


Until April 2. Then the confidence games begin again, and we can all unsafely assume we know what we are talking about.

With a Perspective, this is Jeremy Friedlander.

Jeremy Friedlander lives and works in San Francisco where he claims to be occasionally right.