Opinion: ‘Gotcha’ moments

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Perhaps it is our innate insecurity that drives it. Or, oddly enough, it could be an overblown sense of our own superiority that leads us perversely to hunger for it. Regardless of its genesis, whether an unrealistically low self-image or confidence maximus, we all seem to find the “gotcha” game to be irresistible. 

Film, literature, history and our own personal heritages are abundant with stories of our desire for the set-up and anticipated satisfaction of the impending fall. We bait friends, family, spouses, co-workers and others, all the time believing that we know that we can catch them in a supposed prevarication, equivocation, or mistake. Certain in our own interpretation of circumstance, we feel deputized by the cosmos to prevent “them from getting away with it.”

Then, as the target of our machinations comes to realize our clever and inescapable trap, we find a bit of joy in toying with them as they twist in the masterfully spun web. We seem mindless of the long-term, if not irreversible, damage done to our relationships. Our gratification in proving that we are right possesses us like a predator readying for a kill.

Folks lie. People make mistakes and banally cover them up. And humanity collectively, and each of us, individually, is required by the social contract to hold other individuals, and ourselves, to a high standard of integrity. But is there another way? Do we have to set traps for those close to us like spies in the Cold War? Couldn’t we simply ask directly? Can we find a language to express our doubt in the veracity of other humans without hiring private detectives? If we have so little confidence in those around us, should we be spending our time seeking new acquaintances rather than orchestrating elaborate schemes?    

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