Category Archives: Family

Advice Column Ethics: The Case Of The Anxious Godmother

"look, I'll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws..."

“Look, I’ll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws…”

The best of all advice columnists, Carolyn Hax, found herself confronted with a tough question this weekend, and uncharacteristically flailed at an answer.

I’m going to try to help her out.

The question came from husband who was trying to decide how to deal with the anxiety of his wife, godmother to two teenagers being raised alone by her brother. The brother, it seems, has decided to take up race car driving as a new hobby, and sister, the wife of Hax’s correspondent, is terrified that this risky pursuit might eventually place the teens in her care. “The kids have been raised in a way that neither of us agrees with, and if they were to come under our care, it would be very difficult for everyone involved,” he writes. What should he do?

Maybe Hax’s reply helps the potential adoptive parent, but I sure found it stuttering, overly equivocal and confusing. It’s not surprising: the issues are difficult, full of ethical conflicts.

Here is my analysis:

1. If one agrees to be the designated guardian of a child or children, one is ethically obligated to be ready to accept the duties of the job. “I’ll take care of your kids happily as long as it’s not your fault that you can’t” just isn’t good enough. Too many people, perhaps most, accept this crucial responsibility as an honor rather than as a very serious commitment, and first and foremost, it is a commitment to the children. If a godmother (or, in a non-religious setting, a guardian) is terrified of the reality of fulfilling the duties of the job, she should give them up, so they can be accepted by someone who is not so reluctant. It shouldn’t matter if the parent is an amateur snake handler or a couch potato.

2. It is reckless, selfish and irresponsible for the sole parent of children to not take this fact into consideration regarding his lifestyle and other choices. Two children depend on him: he is duty bound to do what he can to stay alive, healthy, and capable of supporting them. Taking on unquestionably risky hobby like race car driving, or storm chasing, or being a volunteer human subject for the ebola vaccine, is irrational and wrong. It is right for the potential successor guadians to make this point to him, for the children, for a family intervention, for his friends, for anyone. And they should. He is not free to act as if he has complete autonomy, not with two children who depend on him.

3. If his thinking is “it’s OK to risk my life, because I have two foster parents on the hook,” that is similarly unethical, and he needs to be told that, too. But he should be told it by  guardians/godparents who are still committed to being loving parents should the worst occur, not by a couple that accepted the responsibility assuming they would never actually have to deliver.

The bottom line:

  • The inquirer and his wife should withdraw as guardians.
  • The father should grow up.
  • The next guardian couple should be informed of the father’s irresponsible proclivities, and make his promise to take reasonable efforts to remains capable of raising the children as a condition of their accepting the role.

And, of course, if the worst happens and the father ends up a victim of Dead Man’s Curve without having found a suitable guardian, the sister and her husband may be obligated to raise the orphaned teens anyway.

Because that’s what families are for.

Is that what Carolyn says? I’m not sure. If it is, it wasn’t clear enough.

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Love

Slate’s Amanda Hess’s Very, Very Embarrassing Essay About Why It’s “Very, Very Stupid To Compare Hope Solo To Ray Rice”

Fa11 _WT_Hope AL Portrait_RGB.JPG

A Forbes  columnist wrote a clumsy essay that managed to make it sound like all incidents of campus sexual abuse were the fault of co-eds who can’t hold their liquor. It was almost instantly taken down, and he was sacked in disgrace, for some opinions are just not fit for open debate in politically correct America, it seems. Self-censorship is the order of the day, or fear the wrath of the War on Women Warriors. You can read the piece here: in my view, there was enough that was thought-provoking in it to allow the dumb and offensive parts to be taken care of by astute commenters, critics and bloggers. But women are the new unassailable icons right now (oh my God, I nearly wrote “sacred cows”! My career just flashed before my eyes…). It will be fascinating to see how long this delicate and fanciful balance can be maintained in the culture without someone breaking out in uncontrollable giggles: women are equal in every way to men, but are too pristine and delicate to accept or endure criticism of any kind, and if you dare offend them, you are toast.

Around the same time Forbes was declaring Bill Frezza’s essay a blight on humanity, Slate’s Amanda Hess was posting a column of at least equivalent nonsense content, and I would argue, more embarrassing. It is a desperate plea for a distaff double standard regarding domestic violence, responding to articles like mine, pointing out that soccer star Hope Solo is garnering faint condemnation for the pending charges against her, while the same sports writers and social commentators ignoring her are attacking the  National Football League and its several abusers, alleged abusers, and charged abusers with gusto. Hess calls her opus “No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem, Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice. If this didn’t guarantee a ticket to spend a lonely weekend with Frezza lamenting the end of their gigs, nothing will. Slate disgraced itself by publishing it, because it adds nothing to the public debate regarding domestic abuse except rationalizations, excuses, and of course, the exalted double standard that women can do no wrong, or at least no wrong anyone should get upset about.

Before I expose the utter dishonesty and incompetence of Hess’s essay, let me just state for the record why I and anyone else who is objective and paying attention compares Solo to Rice (and the other NFL players recently disciplined), or to be more precise, compares the obligation of U.S. Soccer to treat its accused abusers exactly like the NFL is doing now: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Sports

Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck Update: Now The NFL Is Validating Gender Bigots

Men vs Women: Come on--who would YOU trust?

Men vs Women: Come on–who would YOU trust?

When Roger Goodell and the NFL do  something right in the metastasizing Ray Rice-Adrian Peterson-Who Else Will It Be Tomorrow?-We Don’t Care About Domestic Violence Or Child-Beating But Our Sponsors Think We Should So We’ll Pretend To fiasco, do let me know.

Among the more sinister botches was the league’s cynical PR move of appointing four women to explain to him and the other suits that it’s really bad for a sport that sells role models and heroes to have those key products smacking around small children and women. Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s vice president of community affairs and philanthropy, was given an expanded role as vice president of social responsibility. Lisa Friel, the former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office; NO MORE co-founder Jane Randel; and Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, were also hired to address the problem, which, as everybody should know, only that kinder, more generous, more nurturing, rational and generally more civilized gender even recognizes as a problem.

This is female superiority fantasy, of course, but the media and, naturally, women themselves are grabbing it and running for the goal line. On this morning’s Sunday talking head blab-fests, I must have heard six or seven pundits, most of them women but not all, take a breather from their non-stop condemnation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to express relief that women were finally on the scene to straighten things out for their poor, idiot brothers.

There is no indication, anywhere, that men are less capable of comprehending what is wrong with domestic violence, more rational in dealing with it than women, or more competent to analyze the issue: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Romance and Relationships, Sports, U.S. Society

Dog Custody Ethics From The Vermont Supreme Court

It's a dog's life, whatever THAT means...

It’s a dog’s life, whatever THAT means…

Pet dogs are more than property and less than citizens. When they become surrogate children, as they often do, the legal battles over which member of splitting couples will have custody can become as furious and emotional as anything in “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Now the Vermont Supreme Court has approved a a new approach to these cases, deciding one on the basis of “the best interests of the dog.” Here is the relevant portion of the decision, in the case of Hamet v. Baker: Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Love

Child Protection Ethics: The Case of the Boozing Third-Grader

This isn't Patricia Denault 's son. I hope...

This isn’t Patricia Denault ‘s son. I hope…

In Longwood, Florida, Patricia-Ann Jackson Denault thought it would be funny to post pictures of her son, 7, drinking whiskey on Facebook, titling it “first shot.” Someone thought it was more alarming than funny, and called the police. Three uniformed officers and Child Protective Services came to her house and interviewed both her and her kids. Denault explained her humor theory, and said she wanted the children “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting.”

They were not impressed. She was arrested and charged with child neglect.

Apparently this is becoming a cause celebre in conservative circles, and example of the nanny state going too far. I don’t see it:

  • A photo on Facebook showed an adult persuading a very young child to drink a substance that can be dangerous in large quantities. Was that the only sip, or the first of many? I think the inquiry was responsible.
  • The mother used her child not only as a prop, but as a prop involving alcohol. I would be dubious about the judgment of such a parent.
  • She said that she wanted a seven-year-old “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting” ??? Why? What else would she like to see a child experience in a controlled setting?

I think these were sufficient reason to check on the welfare of the children in that home, and to be concerned. Should she have been arrested? I don’t know what the children said, or what she told the police. The news reports make Denault sound like a fool, but being a stupid parent does not necessarily make one a dangerous parent. If this is all there is, the arrest is overkill. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On Viking Adrian Peterson’s Child Abuse Indictment And Controversy

switch

I am speaking and traveling today, so this will be necessarily and uncharacteristically succinct. I’ll return to many of these issues later.

From ESPN:

Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson turned himself in to Montgomery County, Texas, authorities early Saturday morning. He was booked into the Montgomery County jail at 1:06 a.m. CT and released at 1:35 a.m. CT after posting the $15,000 bond.

Peterson had been indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He flew back early Saturday morning to Minnesota, where he has been deactivated for the Vikings’ home game against the Patriots on Sunday.

This has ratcheted up the focus on NFL player violence in the wake of the still roiling Ray Rice domestic violence controversy. Many fans, as in the case of Rice, are protesting the team’s punishment of Peterson.

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports, Workplace

Abuse-Enabling Author Leslie Morgan Steiner Buys A Berth On The Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck

"So I guess that means that Roger can take a shot at you now and then, Right, Jessica?"

“So I guess that means that Roger can take a shot at you now and then, right, Jessica?”

As if we didn’t have enough Ethics Train Wrecks whizzing around—let’s see, there’s Ferguson, the I.R.S. cover-up, the Redskins, plus oldies like Penn State and Trayvon Martin still gathering riders, and the spectacular Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, which is guaranteed at least another six years of track—the Ray Rice Express is gather speed and passengers. It appears feminist, especially abused feminists, are leaping on board as the cars rumble by, and woe to him who is foolish enough to point it out.

Like me, I guess. Today the Washington Post opinion section carried a jaw-dropping essay by Leslie Morgan Steiner, the former Post editor and current author, the lesson of which, as I read it, is that no matter what a woman’s spouse of partner does to her, says to her, threatens her with, or hits her with, she is absolutely absolved of any responsibility or accountability for the harm that comes to her.This, we are told, is because, as Carol Costello (a fellow passenger) said regarding domestic abuse victims like Janay Rice, currently defending her abuser-husband, “It’s complicated.”

To show just how complicated,  Steiner presents a long list of the various hints she got from her lover-man that he might well just kill her some day, including…

Three months into our relationship, the night he choked me during sex and I wrote it off as weird but somehow erotic (for him; not for me).

The morning five days before our wedding when he first physically attacked me, because, he said with his hands around my neck, “you remind me of my mother.”

During our honeymoon, when he punched me so hard my head hit the window in our car…

The first time he threatened to kill our dog.

The first time he pushed me down a flight of stairs.

The first time he threatened to pull the trigger of the loaded gun he held at my head.

Steiner makes certain that she lets us know that she’s a Harvard grad, apparently believing that this eliminates the obvious response, “What an idiot! She also makes a point of noting that yes, once she too derided women who stay with abusive partners, as if this fact inoculates her against well-founded criticism. It doesn’t, and while I’m sure it’s complicated, she’s an idiot, at least in this critical matter.

Her reasons for staying in the relationship do not rebut these conclusions. They are..

  • “No one in my life had ever made me feel so safe, loved, beautiful and validated as he did during the early months of our relationship.” And do we keep, say, automobiles that we loved to drive in the early months that we owned them, after they prove themselves to be unreliable, expensive lemons? Is this a rational reason to do so?
  • “I thought I was the only woman who could help him face his demons.” Well, she might be the only woman willing to help him face his demons while regularly being abused by him.
  • “I confused pity with love, feeling sorry for him because he had been beaten and starved by his stepfather as a child.” This is so nonsensical that it defies argument. Would she feel similarly sorry for her rapist, her child’s molester? In what universe does pity excuse abuse? They taught her that at Harvard?
  • “In between the terrible times, he still made me laugh.” Gag me with a spoon.
  • “I loved him.” God, read “Oliver Twist.” See the musical “Oliver!.” if Harvard didn’t cover English fiction. You love people who beat you up? Or is it pity, like you said three sentences ago?

These aren’t reasons. These are delusions, self-destructive rationalizations, and lame excuses.

Yet somehow, the author thinks they are ennobling, and that anyone who dares to call this conduct what it is—idiotic, reckless, and irresponsible, and thus entailing some accountability for the results of making terrible and irrational choices, as with every other terrible and irrational choices all of us make—is missing some grand truth. No, we really aren’t. She writes,

I wish the world could give Janay Rice, and other victims of relationship violence, the dignity they deserve.

Instead of condemning her for loving a troubled man, let’s educate ourselves about the twisted psychology of abusive love, so that we can be there for her if she decides to leave. Firing Roger Goodell and blaming the NFL won’t do Janay Rice, or any other domestic violence victims, any good.

Rather, we should hold abusers — and no one else — responsible for the damage they inflict.

Wait, what? What’s dignified about letting a man dominate you, threaten you, abuse you and dehumanize you? Does the victim’s terrible reasons for putting up with abuse matter at all? Steiner’s are bad enough: I’m sorry, but I do not respect an intelligent woman who allows herself to be brutalized because “He makes me laugh.” Ah, how we chortled in that afterglow when he knocked in my teeth with that pogo stick! But I can imagine reasons that are less respectable: what if she likes it? What if she endures it because she likes the money more than she minds the pain? What if she wants to hit him at will,, even knowing that she will get the worse of the exchange? All of these reasons earn dignity? Nonsense. This is pure a  “war against women” war against logic: women can do no wrong. Sure they can.

I think the question of why men hurt the women they think they love is at least as bewildering as why their women stay with them. Doesn’t everybody wonder about this, including the abusers themselves? I’m sure the reasons for their conduct is also “complicated,” full of pain, self-esteem issues, childhood traumas, and more. Do the abusers deserve dignity too? Why not? Because they are men? Because they are the aggressors? Not necessarily, as we saw in the Rice Knock-Out Tap. Because holding a loaded gun to your lover’s head is crazier than staying with someone who hold a loaded gun to your head? Is it? I judge that competition a tie.

Steiner’s position isn’t just a self-excusing cop-out, it’s dangerous. It is exactly what abused women do not need to hear. “Just leave him on your own time, dear, when you are ready, and he no longer makes you laugh. Nobody will judge you. Just keep your fingers crossed that you don’t end up on a slab first.”

Alcoholics are in the grip of an illness, but they are told that they, and they alone, are responsible for saving themselves, and that if they don’t, they are responsible for that too. If someone refuses to leave a burning house because “she loves that house,” and “No house had ever made her feel so safe, loved, beautiful and validated ” and burns to death, is she absolved from responsibility for her foolish choice?

Ray Rice has no excuses, no mitigating circumstances, nothing, including his demons, that should shield him from legal punishment and societal condemnation. But Janay Rice, at this point, has no excuses either. We all are accountable for our choices. Women get no dispensation, and there is no dignity in a woman allowing a man to harm her.

_____________________________

Sources: Washington Post

 

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society