Character, American Values and the Defiant Driver

"Drive, you say? OK, jerk, I'll drive. Watch THIS!!!"Character, the good kind, is a foundation of traits, instincts and values that support, inspire and activate ethical conduct.

A person may know the right thing to do, but without the courage to do it, it will not get done. Empathy, similarly, is a necessary quality if the Golden Rule is going to be any guidance at all. Determination and diligence are not ethical by themselves, for one can be determined and diligent in the pursuit of evil ends. Not applying diligence to a task one has taken on, however, will lead to a breach of trust. Although they are not exactly components of what we call character, intelligence and common sense are essential to the character trait of competence, which in turn is indispensable to behaving ethically, for it is difficult to make ethical decisions without the ability to make good decisions.

I was prompted to think about the links between character and ethics when I read a news story out of Kansas City. A woman driving her car in traffic was stunned when a man suddenly jumped on the hood of her vehicle, pointed a gun at her, and told her to drive.

She wasn’t stunned for long. She drove, all right…directly  to Kansas City Police Headquarters, where she rammed through a garage door with the man still clinging to her hood.The car hit the door three times before breaking through, as the worker in the garage booth frantically radioed officers that someone was trying to ram into the garage. The man on the hood fled the scene, but police soon captured him.

Wonderful. The driver, who has yet to be identified, demonstrated in a crisis that she indeed has a firm, solid foundation for ethical conduct: courage, self-reliance, quick-thinking, independence, refusal to be a victim or to submit to offensive authority. These are among what we used to refer to as American values, creating the American character that made us unique in the world.

It is encouraging to know that some Americans still have it, to teach the rest what they seem to have forgotten.

2 thoughts on “Character, American Values and the Defiant Driver

  1. Jack,
    Not that I necessarily disagree, but I think her actions had less to do with solid ethics and more to do with rational self-preservation. If someone were to jump on the wing of an airplane with a bomb, would it be ethical for the pilot to tip the plane and throw him off, or just the most logical response? Moreover, I’m curious why you would claim them as being solely American values when I’m not sure we have the market cornered on wanting to protect our lives or see criminals punished.

    Then again, perhaps I missed something ..


    • Sure, that’s right. As I said, these aren’t strictly ethical actions, but actions of character. Most people can’t muster that kind of initiative in a crisis, or react that thoughtfully under pressure. Most just freeze.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.