Tag Archives: courage

Ethics Lessons From An Ethical Life: James Garner, 1928-2014

Brett_Maverick_-_James_Garner

To me, James Garner will always be Bret Maverick, his black hat worn girlishly on the back of his head, or “The Scrounger” in “The Great Escape,” a role modeled after Garner’s real-life exploits in the military. For some reason Garner’s aging through the years—his health issues ranged from a heart by-pass to knee replacements and several strokes—bothered me more than that of most stars from my youth. His death bothers me more. James Garner always struck me as a someone who should be perpetually young. Of course, I feel the same way about myself.

By all accounts from contemporaries, fans and colleagues, he was a decent, fair and usually amiable man who never let stardom turn him into a monster, as so many do. He had a single, long-lasting marriage and a stable family; he was not fodder for tabloids with affairs, illegitimate children, drug abuse or DUI arrests. He did apparently have a penchant for punching people in the nose who insulted him to his face, a habit about which he was unapologetic. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Popular Culture, Professions, Workplace

Ethics Hero Emeritus (Independence Day Division): John Dickinson (1732-1808)

Villainous, singing version on the left; heroic, real life version on the right.

Villainous, singing version on the left; heroic, real life version on the right.

It is the American patriot John Dickinson’s curse that the very strength of character that caused him to stand out among the other Founders and that led them to respect him as much or more than any other also made him the black sheep in the inspiring tale of American independence. This led to relative obscurity. Although Dickinson is honored (along with his wife) by Dickinson College, Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University, and University of Delaware’s Dickinson Complex, he is largely unknown to most Americans. He would be even less known, had Peter Stone not chosen to make him the villain of his 1969Tony-winning musical “1776,” where he was portrayed as a conservative loyalist who almost single-handedly foils the efforts of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin to declare independence from Great Britain. Whatever that choice’s dramatic virtues, it was unfair to Dickinson in every way.

Raised a Quaker, educated as a lawyer and a farmer by trade, Dickinson began public life in 1760 when he was elected to the Delaware legislature. During the next fifteen years he served both in that body and in the Pennsylvania legislature, a rare dual service made possible because he owned property in both colonies.

When the British Parliament instituted measures in the Colonies to raise revenue and provide for the quartering of British troops, Dickinson was one of the most eloquent and persuasive critics of the Crown, always with the intention of finding a satisfactory negotiated accord that did not involve the threat of armed rebellion. He urged Americans to rely primarily on economic pressure to oppose the hated Stamp Act, and he enlisted the influence of British merchants on the colonists’ behalf. His diplomatic orientation seemed like a prudent antidote to the firebrands calling for revolution in Boston, so the Pennsylvania legislature appointed him to represent that colony at the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. There he advocated the proposition that reconciliation was possible if the King and Parliament would only realize that colonial opposition was in the grand tradition English principles of political liberty. Dickinson set his reasoning to paper in his “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” a series of deft essays that brought Dickinson international fame as a man of reason and principle. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, War and the Military

D-Day Ethics: Honoring The Strange And Courageous Duty Of Bill Millin, “The Mad Piper of D-Day”

Millin statue

If you watch “The Longest Day” this weekend, as I am sure to do, you will see a portrayal of Bill Millin, though only fleetingly and without his character being identified. Although I have seen the film countless times over many decades, it was only recently, this morning, in fact, that I focused on this remarkable warrior and the unusual brand of courage he showed the world on D-Day.

Bill Millin is the apparently daft bagpiper you can see leading the troops of Lord Lovat (played by Peter Lawford) ashore on Sword Beach, and later blowing his infernal instrument as the 1st Special Service Brigade relieved the troops holding the crucial strategic crossing known as the Pegasus Bridge. Lovat, who, like Millin, was Scottish, defied the British War Office orders banning pipers in battle (too many of them had been killed in World War I), and directed his friend to play traditional tunes, including marches and bawdy drinking songs (including one with a chorus that ended with the shout,“Up your arse!”) , as the rest of his comrades were engaged in battle and under fire. His only weapon was a ceremonial dagger, and except for an incident when the men were in the sites of a sniper’s rifle and forced to take cover, he never stopped playing.

It will not surprise you to know that he was the only one who did this on June 6, 1944. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, History, War and the Military

June 6, 1944

D-Day-facts-Landing-on-Beach

If a Terminator wanted to get rid of me and Ethics Alarms, all he would have had to do, perhaps, would be to go back to June 2, 1944, and throw himself on the hand grenade that exploded and blew a hole in Jack Marshall, Sr.’s foot that day. The wound kept my dad in an Army hospital when he was scheduled to hit the beaches at Normandy, 7o years ago today. (He recuperated sufficiently to request a return to active duty, and ended up in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.)

Thus it is that I have special appreciation and reverence for the American, Canadian* and British soldiers who risked, and in many cases lost, their lives winning a crucial battle in a war about freedom and human rights on June 6, 1944, and empathize with all the sons and daughters, and grandsons and grand-daughters, whose chances at existence were ended that day, while mine, by the sheerest luck, was not.

And I find myself wondering, as America retreats from its traditional ideal as the nation that stands up to evil, chaos, persecution and tyranny in the world, and as our government devalues “hero” and “service with honor” to the status of gratuitous application to a soldier who voluntarily abandoned his comrades on the field of battle, if our culture, our young, and our increasingly self-absorbed society would support the equivalent of a Normandy invasion today.  If not, the world is in greater peril than it knows.

I’m an optimist, and a firm, though shaken, believer in the unique cultural values of the United States of America. I believe that we are one admirable, wise, courageous leader of character away from getting back on the ennobling course charted by Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan.

I just wish that I could see, even faintly, such a leader coming over the horizon. I wish he…or she…would hurry the hell up.

* I stupidly omitted mentioning our Canadian allies when I first posted this, and was properly corrected. No slight intended. My apologies.

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Filed under Character, Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Theater Ethics: The Big Daddy Affair

"Yes, why DON'T you want to make love to a young Liz Taylor, Brick? I've been wondering about that myself..."

“Yes, why DON’T you want to make love to a young Liz Taylor, Brick? I’ve been wondering about that myself…”

It is convenient when the perspectives of my longtime dual personas as a stage director and an ethicist are simultaneously relevant, so I couldn’t pass up this juicy story.

From the LGBT blog of the LA Weekly:

A Southern California production of the Tennessee Williams classic “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” was canceled today after a homophobic outburst in the audience led to a physical confrontation, the firing of an actor, and an apparent cast revolt….the Repertory East Playhouse… announced in a statement today that the run of the play was “suspended” …as a result of “cast members leaving the show with no time to adequately re-cast their parts … “[A] man in the audience was allegedly drunk and heckling the performers during Saturday night’s performance….The heckling had been building up, …with whistling and cat-calling aimed at the character Maggie, as if the heckler and his friend “were at a strip club.”….at the moment Brick is asked why he rejected a kiss from Maggie….the heckler called out something like, “Because he’s a fag,” according to the director. At that point the actor playing Big Daddy, John Lacy, went into the audience to confront the man…”

“It was almost like he [Big Daddy] was still in character,” another actor told the LA Weekly blogger, Dennis Romero. He and a third actor then left the stage, and helped subdue the drunken audience member and his friend. Apparently the audience applauded the scene—does this remind anyone else of “My Favorite Year”?—and the play continued. Said a cast member: “The rest of the play has more resonance than ever.”

The theater fired Lacy after the show.  Anton Troy, the actor playing Brick who had been heckled, then announced on Facebook that he was quitting the production in protest, saying in part, “I will not support homophobia or an establishment that doesn’t support its talent. Hate in any form is not something I choose to subscribe to. John is a seasoned professional and an honorable man. It should never escalate to a point where the talent has to handle an unruly drunk in the audience themselves regardless of the outcome. Producers dropped the ball..”

Other actors quit the production as well, and the entire run, which was to have included a tour, was cancelled.

Wowsers.

Here are some ethics observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Literature, Professions, Workplace

Ethics Quote of the Week: Ralph Peters on the Bergdahl Fiasco

Obama hugs parents

“This is a fundamental culture clash. Team Obama and its base cannot comprehend the values still cherished by those young Americans “so dumb” they joined the Army instead of going to prep school and then to Harvard. Values such as duty, honor, country, physical courage, and loyalty to your brothers and sisters in arms have no place in Obama World.’

-Ralph Peters, a retired army officer and former enlisted man, in the National Review, explaining how it could be that Obama and his advisors actually believed that trading five Taliban terrorists for a likely deserter would bring such universal accalim that the VA scandal would be forgotten and forgiven.

This isn’t even the most memorable quote in Peters’ acid take-down of President Obama and his narrow, politically-stunted staff, especially Susan Rice, and their mad, insulting conduct. That would be this:

“Both President Obama and Ms. Rice seem to think that the crime of desertion in wartime is kind of like skipping class. They have no idea of how great a sin desertion in the face of the enemy is to those in our military. The only worse sin is to side actively with the enemy and kill your brothers in arms. This is not sleeping in on Monday morning and ducking Gender Studies 101.”

Or maybe this… Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, War and the Military

A Culture Lost And Confused: “The Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck” Is Now The U.S. Cultural Values And Priorities Ethics Train Wreck…Good Job, Everybody!

Lost2

Let’s see if I understand:

NBA owner Mark Cuban wasn’t making a racist statement when he publicly said that he is prejudiced in matters concerning blacks and race. That’s interesting, because the common description of one who is bigoted regarding race is “racist.” Even if  he was racist, it doesn’t justify his being fined millions, banned and losing his team, because he made the statement publicly, which is brave, rather than making his racist statements in the privacy of his own bed room, where Donald Sterling foolishly thought, as an American, that what he did was nobody’s business, as the gay members of the mob who want him ejected from his business always tell us.

Wait, that can’t be right. Let me start again. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Rights, Romance and Relationships, Sports, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Former Princeton President William G. Bowen

“I think that Birgeneau, in turn, responded intemperately, failing to make proper allowance for the immature, and, yes, arrogant inclinations of some protestors. Aggravated as he had every right to be, I think he should be with us today.”

—— William G. Bowen, former Princeton President and last-minute substitute 2014 Commencement speaker at Haverford College. Bowen’s predecessor as Haverford’s designated graduation VIP, former Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau, had withdrawn in response to Haverford student protests that he had been too tough on the Occupy Berkeley protesters.

"Honored graduates: My advice is that when faced with determined opposition, if you know you are right, run away. Thank you."

“Honored graduates: My advice is that when faced with determined opposition, if you know you are right, run away. Thank you.”

Yes, bravo. Many pundits have commented on the epidemic of anti-free expression attitudes on campus, as various groups on campuses across the country have effectively vetoed speakers at Commencements and other forums that threatened to disturb their unshakeable belief in the infallibility of their judgment and analysis of the world before their 22n’t birthday. Yes, students are arrogant, immature, intolerant, easily misled and often ridiculous; we knew that. Thus it is up to the adults to set them straight and teach them some useful life lessons. One such lesson should be to refuse to back down in the face of criticism and opposition just because it will require character, fortitude and courage to do what you have every right to do. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Quotes, Citizenship, Character

Ethics Hero: NBA Clippers Owner Donald Sterling (And Yes, I Mean It)

When you think about it, the champion in this fight would almost have to be repulsive for a victory to mean anything.

When you think about it, the champion in this fight would almost have to be repulsive for a victory to mean anything.

The other shoe dropped, and however it may be intended, it’s an ethical shoe. Donald Sterling now says that he’ll refuse to pay the 2.5 million dollar fine levied on him by NBA Commissioner Silver and his fellow owners for what he said in his own bedroom.

Good. I was waiting for this, and hoping that would be his course of action. Ironically, a good, compliant, progressive billionaire, and one who was not, unlike Sterling, a repulsive asshole, who was nationally embarrassed as Sterling has been, would crawl quietly into a hole, periodically send out big checks and mea culpas to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP, and in the process, take  big, bloody chunks out of our freedom to think and speak freely, and our personal privacy. Sterling is doing the right thing, although it is going to cause him to be even more vilified by the media and even more assailed as the personification of racism than he has been already—and that has already been disproportionate to his “crime.”

Fighting is also going to be expensive. Never mind. It is revolting to write it, or even think it, but he is fighting for all of us. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

Ethical Feline Of The Year: Tara the Cat

The rescuer and  the rescued (photo from KERO, Bakersfield)

The rescuer and the rescued (photo from KERO, Bakersfield)

You may have seen this video already, but as I may never again have the opportunity to honor a member of one of nature’s least ethical creatures for exemplary ethical conduct, here is the amazing tale of Tara the Cat.

In Bakersfield, California, four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo, who is mildly autistic, sat on his bicycle outside his family’s home when the neighbor’s chow-labrador mix, who “doesn’t like children or bicycles” according to his owners, escaped the yard through an open gate , saw the boy, and attacked him. Surveillance footage shows the dog grabbing the boy’s leg and pulling him to the ground, and beginning to shake him. The Triantafilo family cat, Tara, saw the attack and charged to the rescue, leaping on the dog and chasing him off.

The boy’s father posted the video of the jaw-dropping episode to YouTube, and you can see it below.

I have had cats and lived with cats, and one cat in particular, my wife’s Siamese, broke my heart when he died. Nonetheless, cats are nature’s sociopaths, charming but ultimately self-centered,  cruel and lacking in empathy. They are not pack animals or group oriented, and “loyalty” is not one of the characteristics that anyone would say distinguishes the species. There is a reason why the film “Cats and Dogs,” which posited that the two rival creatures were really alien races of superior intelligence secretly battling for dominance on Earth, cast the cats as the villains. Cats can’t be trusted, and there is no such thing as an ethical cat.

Or so we have always been told.

Tara (the video is not a hoax) is either an outlier, or this is just one more example of how scientists don’t understand animals as much as they think they do. She clearly places herself in danger to rescue the most vulnerable member of her family. The cat assessed what was happening, set out to rescue the child, and did it efficiently and well.

I have never heard of such a thing. There are other YouTube videos that show cats engaging in ambiguous conduct that is termed a rescue, but such episodes always involve the cat protecting itself or its general vicinity from an intruder. At first, I thought Tara’s video was staged, like “The Incredible Journey.” So far, it doesn’t appear to be.

Thus we have to conclude that, contrary to lore, conventional wisdom and propaganda from the Ministry of Dogs, cats—some cats, one cat, this cat—are capable of  conduct that in a human we would regard as altruistic, ethical and courageous acts. Tara not only rescued a little boy from serious harm, she also elevated the status and reputation of cats everywhere.

Now that’s an Ethics Hero.

And here’s the astonishing video:

__________________________

Facts: Daily Mirror, ABC

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Filed under Animals, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Family