What does it mean, to make a MISTAKE?

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MISTAKE AT THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY TERMINAL

I was waiting in the Bike Area at the South Ferry in Manhattan last Sunday.
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There is a Bike Family –dressed in Smart Bike Casual– sitting behind me: Mom, Dad, and two kids aged 5-6. There is a certain air of hyper-activity attached to this familty unit.
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I overhear the following exchange:
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Mom: Jodie! Did you just pick that piece of popcorn off the floor and EAT it?
Jodie: Yes……
Mom: Jodie, but I told you NOT to do that! WHY did you DO that???
Jodie: Mom, it was a mistake!
Mom: But Jodie…
Jodie: Mom. I told you: it was a misTAKE!
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[Jodie effectively silenced Mom, but not before a tiny muffled sound of frustration did issue from her lips.]
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I suddenly realize: I’m not sure what the word “mistake” means.
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For some reason, I am reminded of John McCain’s carefully constructed but ultimately meaningless line about The Iraq War that he used last year:
“Sure, there were enough mistakes to go ’round.”
He found a way to suggest he was taking responsibility, or might take it in the future, merely by mentioning the word “mistake”. And –probably more to the point– at the same time he found a way to silence his critics by suggesting that they were included in that “enough…to go ’round”.
People in glasshouses must not throw stones.
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What IS a mistake?
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Was Jodie in the Bike Area really making a mistake? Did he really make a mistake when he put that piece of forbidden popcorn in his mouth? Perhaps he had meant to put it in his pocket? Perhaps he thought it was something else –perhaps he mistook the piece of popcorn for a hat? A hat which he might have thought was edible. And miraculously germ-free, even though it had been on the ground.

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I have no other information about Jodie. But I know this:
in the few short years of his young life so far– he has learned the language of avoidance of responsibility.
He possibly has a career in politics ahead of him.
He may never have to admit to a mistake in his life.
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Even when he is admitting a “mistake”.


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