Tag Archives: courage

Ethics Quiz: Once Again, Bystander Ethics, The Duty To Rescue, And The Imperiled Child

clarkkentThe free-range kids debate already raised this issue, and now my colleague and friend Michael Messer, the talented and versatile musician/singer/ actor who teams with me in the ProEthics musical legal ethics programs Ethics Rock, Ethics Rock Extreme, and Ethics Jamboree, just posted about his traumatic experience on Facebook, writing,

“I’m standing in Central Park and witnessed a tourist father grab his (approx 5 year old) child by the arm and shake him… The. open palm smack his child in the head. Hard. Twice. I screamed to him, from about 50 feet, where I witnessed it: “HEY!!! YOU DON’T HIT HIM” he looked up, startled to be called out, and waved me off to mind my business. “YOU DO NOT HIT A CHILD IN THE HEAD”, I repeated, at the top of my lungs, hoping to attract attention. The kid cried and then got himself together and went off to play. No one else in Sheeps Meadow saw or took notice. For about 5 minutes after I kept my eyes on him so he knew he was now being watched. What is the role of a bystander in this situation?”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day is…

What is the role of a bystander in this situation?

The answer is simple, really—its that oft-repeated Ethics Alarms mantra, “FIX THE PROBLEM,” at least as much as you can. Do something. Mike did the right thing, from a distance: show the abuser he’s being observed, protest, shame him. If one can, if one has the ability, the skill and the timely reaction and the child looks to be in genuine danger, intervene physically.

The latter course, however, carries risks, and also may be precluded by the natural reflex most humans have when they observe something unexpected and shocking. I discussed this issue when Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary was being pilloried in some publications for not immediately charging into the Penn State showers and stopping sexual predator Jerry Sandusky from sexually abusing a boy: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Race, U.S. Society

Maybe The Best Reason To Remember April 15…Number 42

jackie-robinson

A lot has happened on April 15.

Leonardo De Vinci was born…Abraham Lincoln died…Apollo 13 had the accident that almost destroyed it, but that triggered one of the great triumphs of the space program…Lee surrendered, ending the Civil WarThe Beatles disbanded…I didn’t get my taxes in on time….

I would argue however, and will, that as culturally important as any of these events was that sixty-eight years ago, in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball in the modern era. This represented a cultural change that allowed the United States to take a giant step forward toward healing the self-inflicted and almost fatal wound of slavery, and it took a man of surpassing courage and character to do it. (Two men, really: the other was Dodgers GM Branch Rickey.)

Today all MLB players will wear Robinson’s number 42 to honor him. If you haven’t seen the movie “42, or if your children haven’t seen it, this is a good day to get a sense of what Jackie went through as he broke the color line.  You can check out Robinson’s baseball stats here,  and learn about the civil rights work he did after his playing career, in the too-short life that was left to him here. He’s in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor, of course, and his entry there has more about his life as well as some good links.

The main thing is, remember him.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a close friend—smart, accomplished, engaged, educated, about 26 years old at the time. She had no idea who Jackie Robinson was. Nobody, then, now or ever, should reach adulthood in the United States without knowing and understanding what Robinson did, and our nation’s debt to him. There is an ethical  duty to remember, and to respect.

Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

Thank you.

 

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

An Irish Gay Marriage Ethics Quiz: Ethics Hero, Ethics Dunce…or What?

gay-marriage

It’s comforting, I think, to realize that the U.S. isn’t the only Western nation that is in cultural upheaval over the gay marriage issue.

The  Irish Government, for example, will be holding a referendum on same-sex marriage at the end of May, only two decades after homosexuality was decriminalized.  Now polls suggest that  almost 80% of the Irish people favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Kowabunga, or rather, Faith ‘n Begorrah!

 Father Martin Dolan, the long-time priest at the Church of St Nicholas of Myra in Dublin’s city center for 15 years, called upon his congregations at the Saturday night Mass and Sunday morning service to support same sex marriage in the upcoming Irish vote. Then he announced that he was gay himself.

Dolan’s revelation received applause and a standing ovation.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day:

Was this conduct by the priest ethical?

I have some observations.

1. Since the Catholic Church does not approve of homosexuality, I believe that it is doubly unethical for a gay man to be a Catholic priest. First, it is dishonest, and second, it is hypocritical.

2. Announcing that he is gay is a good campaign tactic, as his parishioners presumably admire him, but it is making a national and cultural decision personal.

3. Father Dolan, being gay himself, has a personal interest in the result. He is therefore not an objective advocate, and as a priest, giving guidance to a congregation, he is obligated to be objective and without conflict.

4. Yes, it is more ethical for him to disclose his bias than not. It is still a bias, and still taints his judgment and credibility on the issue.

5. If this is a moral, religious issue, then Father Dolan has jurisdiction to provide his guidance and advice. If it is a political question, then he is abusing his power and influence, and that is irresponsible. This involves a vote that isn’t binding on any church, which means the referendum is a political issue, not a religious one.

6. Verdict: abuse of power.

7. Is it ethical for a priest to directly challenge Church teachings as an official, employee and figure of authority in the Church, with a public statement he knows would not be approved by his superiors? No. It is a betrayal of trust.

My view:

The priest’s advocacy was unethical.

_______________________

Pointer: Fred!

Facts: Irish Central

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Professions, Religion and Philosophy

Bergdahl Desertion Ethics

BoweSo Bowe Bergdahl is being tried as a deserter! Fancy that—and yet Susan Rice, the President’s National Security Advisor, told the nation, as the President was trying to pretend his decision to trade terrorists for the disturbed American POW wasn’t the cynical effort to overshadow the then raging VA scandal and to tamp down veteran groups’ rage that it was, that Bergdahl  “…served the United States with honor and distinction…”

Either Rice knew this wasn’t true—and if she were competent in her job, she would have to, wouldn’t she?—and was lying to the American public, or she didn’t know whether it was true or not, but asserted that it was true anyway, which is also lying to the American people. She is, as we already know, willing to do this—lie. And her punishment from the President, who promised transparency, for such a high profile and embarrassing lie? Nothing. What does this tell us? It tells us that Barack Obama doesn’t put a very high priority on being truthful with the public that elected him..

You know, I don’t object to making a prisoner trade to free an American soldier, even an awful one like Bergdahl, if that is the reason why it is done. I can accept it if our leaders level with the public, as in: “Sgt. Bergdahl is far from a model soldier, and may even be facing charges. But he is an American citizen, and we do not abandon our own. Even a flawed American soldier is more precious than five terrorists.” These leaders, however, don’t level, because they fear that if they did, the full disgrace of their incompetence would be known. Just as Obama doesn’t hold Rice accountable, the news media and the President’s party don’t hold him accountable for this putrid, contemptuous treatment of the American people, and Democrats allow incidents like this to rot their values from the inside out.

That’s the revolting culture that the charges against Bergdahl confirm, for those not completely rotted. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, War and the Military

Ethics Hero: Sterling Karrenstein

mobile_phone_cameraAt West Iredell High School in Statesville, North Carolina, student Sterling Karrenstein witnessed a resource officer using a taser to subdue a fellow student who punched the officer in the face. As he documented the incident on  his cell phone, school staff attempted to stop Sterling, demanding that he hand over the phone and even attempting to take it from him. He refused. The school principal apparently later told Sterling that being on school property eliminated his right to record events.

Wrong.

At least someone knows what is in the First Amendment. Obviously Sterling didn’t learn it at West Iredell High School, but Ethics Alarms salutes him for insisting on his rights as a citizen despite being pressured to do otherwise by incompetent authority figures.

If it is not disrupting class, infringing on the privacy of others or otherwise violating school policy, taking photos or video is a fully protected right.

This does not mean, it is important to note, that tasering a student who punched him was necessarily wrongful conduct by the officer.

______________________

Pointer: Tim LaVier

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Filed under Education, Ethics Hero, Rights

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘Why The Sweet Briar College Fight Matters'”

Sweet BriarThe Sweet Briar closing, which was first raised as an ethics issue in the post, “The Sweet Briar Betrayal, has attracted many new readers and commenters to Ethics Alarms from the all-women Virginia college’s alumnae and supporters. Things are starting to move fast in the situation, with an investigation looming and questions being asked by the state legislature. Enlightening us further on this troubling story is faculty member Marcia Thom Kaley; here is her Comment of the Day on the post Comment of the Day: “Why The Sweet Briar College Fight Matters”: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

Transgender Ethics: Epic Trailblazer Malpractice In New Hampshire

Ex-N.H. state legislator, Stacy Laughton, a.k.a Barry Laughton.

Ex-N.H. state legislator Stacie Laughton, a.k.a  felon Barry Laughton.

Trailblazers have an ethical obligation when they presume to break a social or occupational barrier to a marginalized group’s participation and equal treatment. Simply put, their duty is to make the bias that has created the barrier and necessitated the “trail” look ignorant, cruel, foolish and unfair. A trailblazer does not have to be a shining star, though it helps, but must be capable of at least doing a solid, average, generally acceptable job., even in the grudging judgment of bigots.

This is because a trailblazer who does a poor job or displays character traits that are objectively inadequate for a role model, which a trailblazer inevitably becomes, risks adding to the barrier he or she just breached for those who follow behind them. The ethical requirement for trailblazers is the same as the traditional edict for doctors “First do no harm.” Being a trailblazer, however, is not easy, and since failure is catastrophic for the group a trailblazer represents, there is a duty not to attempt such a high-risk, high-profile cultural role unless the trailblazer is first, reasonably convinced that he or she the resources of talent, ability, fortitude, character and courage to succeed, and second, willing to accept and overcome the added stress of relentless attention and criticism.

There have been excellent trailblazers, cultural heroes all. Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League baseball player to break the color barrier is the template, but there are many other successes: Justice Thurgood Marshall, John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic President of the U.S., Amelia Earhart, Diane Crump, the first female jockey, the late Ed Brooke, the first black U.S. Senator since reconstruction, and too many more to mention. There have also been some miserable failures. The worst trailblazer was probably Shannon Faulkner, who fought in the courts for two years to force The Citadel to accept female cadets, then, after she was victorious, showed up fat and unprepared, and washed out in just one week as millions of dubious vets said, “See? What did we tell you?” Then there was Carol Moseley Braun, the charismatic, promising African-American Democrat whon Illinois voters elected as the nation’s first black female Senator, only to turn out to be thoroughly corrupt.

More recently, we have seen other trailblazers fall short, like Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL.  Is there a celebrity gay marriage that has not ended in a quick divorce? Most have been failures, reinforcing the belief that gays are promiscuous and unsuited for a real marriage. Most vividly of all in the realm of trailblazer malpractice, we are reminded of the disheartening and tragic examples of Barack Obama, and Eric Holder every day.

Still, in the annals of epic trailblazer fiascoes, it would be hard to top the story of Stacie Laughton, New Hampshire’s first openly transgender state legislator, who was elected in 2012 as one of three House members for Ward 4 in Nashua. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, U.S. Society