Category Archives: Love

Clarence Darrow, in 1926, On Why Black Lives Matter

The all white Detroit jury that acquitted Dr. Sweet.

The all white Detroit jury that acquitted Dr. Sweet.

When I referred to Clarence Darrow’s support for terrorist John Brown in the previous post, I reviewed other references to the great trial lawyer that have appeared here. (As you may know, I authored a one-man play about Darrow, still performed to legal groups by actor (and my friend) Paul Morella, and with historian Ed Larson compiled selections from Darrow’s writings, court appearances and speeches, The Essential Words and Writings of Clarence Darrow.) I have also posted on his famous Leopold and Loeb argument against capital punishment, but I was shocked to find out that I never posted any part of his closing argument in the murder trial of Dr. Sweet.  I need to remedy that omission now. That courtroom oratory is not only the best of Darrow’s closing arguments, but also the most relevant to current events. It is a masterpiece, and  also astonishingly prescient and wise.

In 1925, Dr. Henry Ossian Sweet, a black man, moved his family into a house in a previously segregated section of Detroit. Mobs of whites gathered outside the house with torches, clubs and guns the first two nights of their residence, as police stood by passively. On the second night, a gunshot coming from the house killed one of the demonstrators, and all 11 residents of the home, including Dr. Sweet, were charged with murder. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hired Clarence Darrow to handle the defense.

There were two trials, the first ending in a hung jury. In the second, Darrow performed a seven hour closing argument, aspects of which have inspired homages in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “A Time to Kill.” Despite the all-white jury, Dr. Sweet was acquitted, and the charges against the others were dropped. Darrow isn’t a legend for nothing.

I have left out the parts of the closing argument that recount the testimony and the facts of the case: you can read about the trials on Doug Linder’s excellent website, and you can read Darrow’s whole closing here. This redacted version focuses on Darrow comments about race and race relations. It is longer than the version we used in the play, but this is the version I would have used if audiences could tolerate a three hour one man show.

I continue to believe that this was the high point of Darrow’s incredible career, and also one of the most impressive—and gutsy—speeches in our history. Only Clarence Darrow would challenge an all-white jury like this in 1925. It is also unbearably moving. Paul, when he performs the selection, ends with tears streaming down his face, as Darrow did. You might too. Try reading it aloud to your kid. Or to yourself.

This post also relates to another recent post, the one about jury nullification. That is really what Darrow is arguing here, in the context of confronting racial injustice and bigotry for the survival of the nation and society. The white victim of the shooting was shot in the back. Darrow, at one point, calls it murder himself. Nonetheless, he argues that acquitting Sweet and his family is the right thing to do, whatever the law says.

Here is my abridged version of the epic closing argument made by Clarence Darrow, May 11, 1926, in defense of Dr. Sweet and his family.

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Professions, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

Further Thoughts And Questions On “The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law” (Part 2)

Money-box-gift

As promised, here are some proposed lines regarding the ethics quiz on the lottery-enriched brother and whether his financially-challenged sibling  should ask for a cut—and had a right to expect one. (Part 1 of the “Further Thoughts” is here)

All of the following assume that the lottery-winner does not have a personal emergency or crisis of his own that would require him to spend all or most of the money.

1. The wealthy brother is ethically obligated to offer financial assistance, if he can afford it without excessive hardship, without being asked, if his brother or his brother’s family is facing a health crisis of other catastrophe.

This is true regardless of whether his new financial resources come from luck, planning, work or skill, and regardless of how much money he has. Offering a loan rather than a gift is still fair and ethical. Charging interest under these circumstances is not, unless the poor brother has a record of not paying back earlier loans.

Possible exceptions: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Family, Finance, Love, Quizzes, Romance and Relationships

Ethics Dunce: Pope Francis

The Pope and "the Angel of Peace"...

The Pope and “the Angel of Peace”…

Sigh.

I apologize in advance to all the Catholics and others who will be offended by this post. I wish I didn’t have to write it. But I just read one too many “nyah, nyah, nyah conservatives and Republicans, you’re so big on waving God at us and now the Pope says you’re full of crap” Facebook posts from someone who would no more set foot in a church than Damien in “The Omen.”  The Pope is as fair game for criticism when he abuses his influence and power as Kylie Jenner, who was the subject of the previous post, and for similar reasons. To those who say that it is disrespectful for me to compare the Pope’s ethics to those of an ignorant 18-year-old minor celebrity drunk on her own fame, my answer is that the Pope needs to stop acting like one.

I’m going to try to avoid the mocking tone I used with Kylie, I really am.

With great power, the saying goes, comes great responsibility. What I see in this Pope is a very, very nice and well-meaning man who suddenly was given the power to have his every opinion on any subject immediately plastered all over newspapers across the world and recited by news readers as significant, and literally can’t stop himself. He told an Argentinian journalist last week that he just wants to be remembered as “good guy.”  Mission accomplished: I believe he is a good guy. He’s also an irresponsible guy, who knows or should know that his pronouncements will be exploited for political advantage by people and parties that could not care less about his Church, God and religion generally, but who will use his words  to persuade voters who feel the need to know no more about a subject that what the “Vicar of Christ” tells them.

It may be “good to be Pope,” to paraphrase Mel Brooks, and it’s also not “easy being Pope,” to paraphrase Kermit the Frog. I don’t care: he accepted the job, and with it the duty to do it responsibly. Being a responsible Pope means not shooting off your mouth about every topic that occurs to you. In that same interview, Pope Francis opined that humans care too much about pets. I get it: poverty is, by his own assessment, the single most important aspect of the Church’s mission, so it’s natural for the Pope to believe that the money spent on movies, cable TV, make-up, CDs, and Jack Russell terriers should all be given to the Clinton Foundation or his Church instead. That’s a facile opinion from someone who has a staff catering to his every whim, and who sits on billions in the Vatican Bank. Does the Pope understand loneliness? Does he have any compassion for those suffering from it? Does he understand the needs of my sister, divorced and with both children gone, and her desire to have some unconditional love in the house when she returns to an otherwise empty home,  love that  takes the form of a happy, loyal, Havanese? “Care for pets is like programmed love,” the Pope told the interviewer. “I can program the loving response of a dog or a cat, and I don’t need the experience of a human, reciprocal love.”

My response: “Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and millions of people will assume you got this point of view straight from God.” Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, History, Leadership, Love, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Hero: Toya Graham, The Baltimore Riot’s ‘Mom of the Year’”

Baltimore mom

I don’t know if a 24 hour period has ever produced as many provocative, passionate and well-argued comments on Ethics Alarms before. This, commenter Holly’s reaction to my designation of the viral  Baltimore mom Toya Graham clobbering her rioter son during the Freddie Gray disruptions in Charm City, is just one of several. I’ll address some of the issues she raises after the post; in the meantime, here is Holly’s Comment of the Day, in a day that will probably have more than one, on the post, “Ethics Hero: The Baltimore Riot’s ‘Mom of the Year’”:

I am surprised at this response. For a number of reasons. In any other circumstance, this woman probably would be going to jail. But if we watch the video more closely, the following observations can be made:

1. This child was leaving with his mother and she was so angry that she chases him to pull him back towards her to continue the beating. He appeared to be complying and in her anger continued to the assault the kid during the walk away.

2. The child was not in imminent danger. There are bystanders all around I saw no rocks being thrown in this video nor police for that matter. It does not appear the threat of losing his life was immediately in front of them.

3. The assault starts with a few close-fisted strikes as well as continuing with open-fisted strikes or what people are calling “smacks”.

Exemplary action on the part of this mother would not have been beating her son as he walked away from the riot, however.  It would have included not allowing a 16 year out of her supervision to wander in the riot in the first place. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Love, Race

Ethics Heroes: Adam and Tanya Phillips

tattoos

I’ve been searching for Ethics Heroes of late. They seem to be candidates for the endangered species list. Now a qualified couple, Adam and Tanya Phillips, has surfaced in the town of Grimsby, in Great Britain. Their 18-month old daughter, Honey-Rae, has a port wine birthmark running from her right foot to her lower back. After they noticed shoppers staring at their child at a local supermarket, the parents both got  tattoos the color and shape of the mark on their own right legs. Each took two-and a half hours, and was painful.

 When Honey-Rae  saw them for the first time, she said “match.”

Loving, selfless, kind…and clever.

And one of the best uses for tattoos I’ve heard of yet

.___________________

Pointer: Althouse

Facts and Graphic: BBC

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Family, Love

Legal But Not Ethical: Sex With A Demented Spouse

Rayhons

In Iowa, a jury has found longtime Iowa state lawmaker Henry Rayhons not guilty of sexually abusing his wife by having sex with her at a nursing home. A doctor had told Rayhons that she had advanced Alzheimer’s disease. and was  no longer mentally capable of consenting to sex.

At the trial, Assistant Attorney General Tyler Buller told jurors  that Donna Rayhons’ Alzheimer’s disease had worsened in the months before last May’s alleged incident of unconsented sexual intercourse by her husband. She had washed her hands in dirty toilet water, Buller said, forgotten how to eat a hamburger and thought her first husband was still alive. Dr. John Brady later testified that Donna Rayhons had severe dementia, and thus any positive reaction to her husband’s physical advances could be termed a “primal response” at best. Brady testified that Donna Rayhons’ cognitive capacity had declined dramatically in the months leading up to the alleged offense. He explained that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s based on several tests, including  a standard cognitive procedure in which patients are asked simple questions. By  May, Brady said, Donna Rayhons scored a zero on that test, and any score below eight indicates severe impairment, he said.

On his blog, the Volokh Conspiracy, Prof. Eugene Volokh makes a valiant effort to justify, excuse, or perhaps be compassionate regarding a man having sex with his wife after she has forgotten who he is or even what sex is. He argues, Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Love

Ten Ethics Musings On The “Unethical Photograph Of The Year” And The Daughters of Villi and Mary Kay

Here's my Jack Russell Rugby doing his imitation of the dog in "The Artist." It's a good antidote, at least for me, when I look at the Villi and Mary Kay family photo. Keeps the gorge down.

Here’s my Jack Russell Rugby doing his imitation of the dog in “The Artist.” It’s a good antidote, at least for me, when I look at the Villi and Mary Kay family photo. Keeps the gorge down.

I should have included these with original post, but the photo so nauseated me that I was barely capable of critical thought. I’m still nauseated, but better. So now I offer these ten question and thoughts:

1. Will this photo and its implication be used by cultural to excuse student-teacher sexual liaisons? They are grotesquely unethical when minors are involved, but professionally reprehensible even when the loving couple are college professor and student.

2. I presume it will. As I noted in the original post, this photo is a breeding ground for rationalizations, “No harm, no foul” among them, and of course, “It all worked out for the best.” This is like showing the modern China that arose out of Mao’s slaughter of millions with the face of the Great Leader superimposed over it all. It worked out so well! How can anyone argue with that?

3. Every time a grossly wrongful act creates some unanticipated good, consequentialism runs amuck. If Mary Kay  and Rape Victim Vili had produced children who had arms growing out of their mouths or who were drug-addicts and cat-burners, the same people who look at the photo now and say  “Awww!” would be pointing and crowing, “See?”

4. The proper comparison is a family created through incest. That taboo is so powerful still that a similar photo of Mom, Dad/Grandad and lovely Daughter–No, Sister! No, Daughter! No, Sister! (Sorry, I was having a “Chinatown” flashback) would not garner the kind of positive reaction too many are having to the Happy Fualaau. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Rights, Romance and Relationships