By Jack Engelhard
Justice without mercy is not justice.
That was an exceedingly harsh expose of Greg Mortenson last Sunday on “60 Minutes.” Can’t say I read his book “Three Cups of Tea,” a huge bestseller over the past few years, a book that’s made him very rich, rich enough to build schools and feed the impoverished in Afghanistan. No need, here, to go over all the charges made against him on “60 Minutes,” other than to list the two main allegations – that the book contains fraudulent information, and that those schools he says he built were never built.
I must admit that on first watching that segment on “60 Minutes” my instinct was (G-d forgive) one of gladness. How good it is when a faker gets nabbed.
It’s called shandenfroid – never mind the misspelling but it’s a German word that means “oh joy when another person trips and falls.”
In my religion that’s a sin, and my instinct was sinful.
Obviously I’ve made a complete turn-around. I now feel sorry for the guy and I think that “60 Minutes” was way too tough.
First of all, even Mortenson’s severest critic on the program admitted than even though not all the schools Mortenson promised to build were up and running, some were. In other words, plenty of people were helped and continue to be helped. Again, back to my religion, if you save a single life, it’s as though you’ve saved the entire world.
Mortenson, then, deserves plenty of credit for that alone.
On the matter of padding his book, well, authors are known for this. It’s the nature of the craft. Was Hemingway really the first to liberate the Ritz?
Oh, there was one more serious charge, that he used philanthropy money for personal use. If this is a crime, every politician would be in jail for misuse of campaign funds.
This man Mortenson may not be perfect as a man or as an author, but did he deserve all that from “60 Minutes?” Listen, we are all vulnerable, authors and anyone who speaks and writes. I think it was Robespierre who said (not exact quote but the gist) – “Find me 20 words written by any man and I will find a reason to hang him.”
Mortenson was hung.
The New York Post reveals that he’s going in for heart surgery this week. Let’s wish him success and speedy recovery.
(I couldn’t work up the energy to find the spelling of that German word. Maybe it’s because I hate it so much. If you know it, I’m all ears.)
About the author: Bestselling novelist Jack Engelhard wrote the novel “Indecent Proposal,” which was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His book of memoirs, “Escape From Mount Moriah” has been selected for the Cannes Independent Film Festival through the filming of his short story “My Father, Joe.” Engelhard’s website – www.jackengelhard.com