Comment Of The Day: “Sought: An Ethical Reason Why This Professor Should Not Be Fired Immediately, And Never Hired For A Teaching Position Again, Anywhere”

There is an update on story behind the post that sparked the latest Comment of the Day.  The racist professor at Trinity College in Connecticut who made inflammatory social media statements advocating killing whites and urging potential rescuers to allow white men and Republicans to die as part of the effort to destroy a “racist system” has reportedly fled the state after receiving death threats. The “I’ve received death threats” is now the reflex tactic for anyone who is under fire for hateful and vicious social media content: the idea is to generate sympathy and victim status. However, excessive negative response to irresponsible speech does not mitigate the offense. No, Williams should not be threatened. He still should be fired.

My favorite Comments of the Day occur when an intelligent reader  candidly explores his or her own thoughts and feelings on a difficult ethics topic without filtering them. Even the contradictions are enlightening. Spartan has proven herself expert on such commentary before, and this is another example.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Sought: An Ethical Reason Why This Professor Should Not Be Fired Immediately, And Never Hired For A Teaching Position Again, Anywhere:

My husband and I have this discussion quite often. He feels there is no duty to rescue any of the assholes of the world, and his definition of what constitutes an asshole is far broader than mine. (For e.g., he has Bill Gates on his list because of his proliferation of a shitty operating system.)

The reason we have this discussion is that I do feel that there is a duty to rescue, but I do not feel that this duty is absolute. (And also he is a nutter, as his position on Bill Gates demonstrates.) I have no duty to be a live organ donor, but if a friend or family member needed one, I would do it. If Trump asked me, I would not. It’s absolutely my call and I while I don’t wish him to die, I would rather reserve that kidney for someone more worthy.

I also have risked my life a few times rescuing dogs/cats who have wandered their way on the highway. As the Professor above would most likely agree, this is quite foolish on my part. I have children and a husband who need me. Their lives would be forever changed if I came to harm, but would the world be a significantly better place if one more kitten was saved? (We fought just the other day because he wouldn’t stop the car on a moderately busy highway for me to save a turtle. If I had been driving, I would have stopped.)

Does a spouse have a duty to save another spouse? Sure, but it’s not absolute. What if the husband engages in extreme physical and mental abuse? What if it is only moderate abuse? What if I just discovered that my husband has abused my child? I would argue that in the latter case, not only has the duty to rescue been eliminated, I should have the right to kill my husband. (And even though I don’t have the right, I doubt a jury would convict so I would do it anyway.)

It’s easy to have a discussion about physical harm though, but the pen truly does more damage than the sword. People in power can change lives overnight. In some countries, women and girls have absolutely no rights or autonomy, receive little to no education, and are valued only for their ability to reproduce. Other countries have huge sex trafficking problems in women and children, but corrupt officials turn a blind eye or directly profit from the scheme. What about the priests or college administrators who ignored evidence of sexual assault and protected the attackers? I say eff these people. Not only do I not have a duty to rescue, they might need some rescuing if I stumble across them in a back alley.

But, now it gets harder for me — what about laws that harm people, but aren’t actually causing physical harm, but extreme mental anguish? It wasn’t too long ago that bi-racial marriage was outlawed in many states. Obviously gay marriage is a more current version of the same thinking. Gay adoption is still hard in many states, and there, only one parent can be listed as the parent. So, if that parent dies or if the couple splits up, one parent can be denied access to his/her child. I find that to be appalling and, if I were not allowed to raise my children, I would have a miserable life. Do I have a duty to try and save a person’s life who is trying, through policy, to deny basic rights — like marriage, children, etc. — to others? I would argue no, BUT, I sure hope that I am never put in the position of knowingly trying to save David Duke’s life. Whether I did or I didn’t, I don’t think I would ever rest comfortable with my decision.

 

40 Comments

Filed under Animals, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics

40 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “Sought: An Ethical Reason Why This Professor Should Not Be Fired Immediately, And Never Hired For A Teaching Position Again, Anywhere”

  1. Anthony Bennett

    No problem with the circumstances she proposes, but remember that the original author specifically referenced first responders. The world gets pretty ugly pretty quick if we don’t assume a “content-neutral” duty to rescue. First responders have that duty.

  2. This is the problem with the whole “resistance” mentality: every US citizen should regard it as a citizen’s duty to save the life of the President if he or she was in a position to do so and no one else was. In fact, it’s a good question to put to someone to gauge whether they really believe in democracy. I would have given a kidney to save every one of the Presidents, best to worst. It is as essential qualification of belonging to a nation, a society and a culture.

    I would also take a bullet for any of them, though that is exemplary ethics, not a duty.

    If one citizen by fate is faced with the choice of either upholding the leadership choice of the public, or using a random opportunity to veto it by active or passive means, that citizen cannot unilaterally overrule the system and the electorate within any ethical system. It’s the ethical equivalent of assassination,.

    • Chris

      I can’t say whether I’d give a kidney or take a bullet for Trump, or any president for that matter, since I’ve never been in such a situation and can’t gauge how I would react to one. But I’d certainly save Trump if doing so requires minimal risk to myself. The Medium article didn’t delineate between saving bigots by putting your own life at risk, and saving them when doing so is a minimal risk, nor did it qualify exactly how bigoted someone had to be to justify not saving them. So it was sloppy in addition to mean and unethical

  3. “he wouldn’t stop the car on a moderately busy highway for me to save a turtle. If I had been driving, I would have stopped.”

    Off topic, but Kudos! I’m a turtle stopper-saver myself and often rewarded by being peed upon.

    I’ll even rescue those gosh darn untrusting Snappers, whose legendarily long necked agility viciously contest my every well-intended effort.

    I once had one (good-sized, ~ 18 ” diameter) wheel around and nearly catch my rapidly withdrawing foot.

    • John Billingsley

      I try to help them when I safely can but around here we have some “turtle ladies” who go above and beyond. I saw one step out in front of an 18-wheeler and stop it by holding her hand up. If I remember correctly from my childhood in Kentucky, you’d have to wait for thunder to get that snapper off you.

      • “my childhood in Kentucky,”

        I’ve got a DEEP soft spot in my heart for the Bluegrass State due to a over eight generations of Maternal history.

        My Mother’s fatherless Father was from Bushtown in Mercer County and headed north to Milwaukee in 1914, at the ripe old age of 14, with nothing but $300 he’d saved raising turkeys and the five sheep he sold along the way to Richmond.

        Next year I’ll enter my 4th decade as a proud ‘Honorary Kentucky Colonel’ in good standing.

    • joed68

      The problem with turtle-stopping on a busy highway is that it’s not only your own life you’re putting in jeopardy.

    • When I lived in an area where the were lots of turtles crossing roads, I kept a nice clean scoop shovel in the trunk with a couple of reasonably sturdy sticks for snappers to latch onto while manipulating them harmlessly onto the shovel. It works every time.

  4. Tyberius A

    The great mistake often made in discussions of ethical and moral standards is to personalize the issue. Ethics is not personal but universal and any attempt to make an ethical issue about “what I would do…” misses an opportunity to not only raise the discussion to what SHOULD be, but how we can all live a life driven by higher ethical standards. What I would or would not do only serves to reduce ethical behavior to a situational standard of my own point of view and that should never be! Right is right and wrong is wrong whether or not I personally subscribe to doing right or wrong. If I were to rob a bank, I can use every justification under the sun to justify my actions from “I couldn’t find a job” to “no one ever loved me” but self justification is just that a way I seek to excuse my actions. That is not ethics! Stealing is wrong and it would be wrong regardless if I justified it to myself. Here, again it seems as though the point of the ethical question is getting lost in whether or not someone agreed with the college professors point and thatis not the ethical question at hand. The ethical question as presented, is simply if somone who did what he did should retain his job and based on a universal ethical standard, the answer is no.

    • deery

      So, if I am gathering this correctly, you would be in favor of tenured professors being fired because they posted a link to an article that gives one argument about a moral stance. And let’s grant that a majority sorta disagree with that stance. And because of that, the professor should be fired?

      • Tyberius A

        Tenure like the freedom of speech should have a limit and not considered absolute. Yes, if a professor advocated that people of any particular ethnic group, color, creed should be left for dead and makes the determination they are not fit to live, that person should not hold a position of authority and that includes college professors.

      • As I implied in the article, there is nothing wrong with raising another point of view, however offensive.. Loudly endorsing it, as well as coming back with #killthmeall, goes well beyond that.

        • deery

          As I implied in the article, there is nothing wrong with raising another point of view, however offensive. Loudly endorsing it, as well as coming back with #killthmeall, goes well beyond that.

          You mean #LetThemDie, the title of the article, I’m assuming?

          Got it. Endorsing ideas that others deem offensive should be enough to revoke tenure.

          • wyogranny

            Endorsing a system where death is deemed a proper response to people you disagree with. Seems to be more than offensive. I’d love to know how you come up with these twisted rationalization but I suspect it’s more to do with finding out who said something than what is said. You seem not to be able to hold onto any core value except the one that first identifies the politics of the speaker and then decides on its merits.

          • Mrs. Q

            “ideas that others find offensive”

            I’m sure Hitler, Stalin, Mao felt similarly.

            I pray that most people don’t think this way or we are all doomed.

          • Chris

            deery, should tenure be revoked if a professor is an outspoken white supremacist?

  5. Spartan,
    Lots of insight into the way you think, thanks for the honesty and thanks for sharing.

    For me, this jumped out of your comment, “Do I have a duty to try and save a person’s life who is trying, through policy, to deny basic rights — like marriage, children, etc. — to others? I would argue no, BUT, I sure hope that I am never put in the position of knowingly trying to save David Duke’s life. Whether I did or I didn’t, I don’t think I would ever rest comfortable with my decision.”

    Taking into context the blogs/articles about Professor Johnny Eric Williams to which you were commenting about and what I understand from your comment; I get the sense that when you talk about saving a human being that needs immediate help, you are sort of correlating that with saving someone from an active violent act or other actively dangerous situation that might put yourself in some kind of physical danger – that’s not always the case. I don’t think that is the real core of what Professor Johnny Eric Williams was talking about; I think the core of his opinion was simply to let them die regardless of the situation simply because of differing opinions on political policy and ideology differences – this is exactly the kind of “they deserve to die” rationalization that drives thousands of terrorists to do what they do.

    Serious rhetorical question that people should think about well ahead of time because it is a moral choice that will guide people if something like this arises; what if there is no reasonable expectation of any physical peril to yourself, would you help save the life of someone like David Duke, or worse, if you were put in the situation? These are moral choices that every individual should think about ahead of time. There are consequences to every choice.

    Generalized “you” question: Are you willing to intentionally let someone else die simply because of differing opinions on political policy or ideological differences? In a general sense; any person that answers yes that question is morally bankrupt.

    • ”Are you willing to intentionally let someone else die simply because of differing opinions on political policy or ideological differences?”

      Recall our banned madison.com pal phantastischfeldswebel claiming he was going to move from America’s Dairyland because his Hypocritical (sic) Oath wouldn’t allow him to treat anyone that wasn’t ideologically certified?

      On a smaller scale, I’m reminded that Lefty got all weepy (easily accomplished when residing in “A Nation of Assholes”) about the “extraordinary professionalism” shown by that Black LE officer from SC helping a struggling, older KKK Rally participant?

      https://ethicsalarms.com/2015/07/20/unethical-quote-of-the-week-the-huffington-post-which-is-having-a-really-unethical-week/

      Let’s say this officer chose to ignore his unequivocal responsibility to serve-n-protect, you think Lefty would have verily stampeded to his defense with a spittle-flecked slobberfest of epic proportions?

      Same as if an EVIL White LE officer refused to render aid to a NBPP member….right?

    • Spartan

      Look at my last sentence. I know that I would never truly be comfortable with saving a morally bankrupt person’s life, yet I never would be comfortable if I did not try to save that person’s life too.

      To put it another way, it may be both ethical AND unethical to save certain lives.

      That’s why God created booze.

      I asked my husband this question over the weekend. He is a kind man, great with our daughters, donates tons of his time to pro bono matters, has torn up invoices that clients can’t pay (sometimes earning my ire in the process), and has not only permitted me to basically turn our home into a shelter for unwanted animals (you should meet our crazy dog!), but he helps me in those efforts. He also has a degree in Philosophy. Here’s how he answered my David Duke hypothetical: “I would point at him and laugh while he died.” Obviously that answer is shocking to me, but there is no way that you could remotely call him a morally bankrupt individual.

      Not everything is black and white.

      • Spartan wrote, “Not everything is black and white.”

        In context with what I wrote; that’s the grey line where immorality, as related to the value of human life based on opinions, begins.

      • joed68

        That’s a pretty morally bankrupt answer, though.

      • Spartan wrote, “I asked my husband this question over the weekend. He is a kind man, great with our daughters, donates tons of his time to pro bono matters, has torn up invoices that clients can’t pay (sometimes earning my ire in the process), and has not only permitted me to basically turn our home into a shelter for unwanted animals (you should meet our crazy dog!), but he helps me in those efforts. He also has a degree in Philosophy. Here’s how he answered my David Duke hypothetical: “I would point at him and laugh while he died.” Obviously that answer is shocking to me, but there is no way that you could remotely call him a morally bankrupt individual.”

        Come on Spartan, you know good and well that’s a spin off of the 14. Self-validating Virtue rationalization. It doesn’t matter how great of a guy he’s been for his entire life, that statement “point at him and laugh while he died” is not moral.

      • …God created booze.

        God created booze, Jack Daniels perfected it 🙂

  6. joed68

    Considering the events since the election, I’d love to see the results of an anonymous nationwide poll asking some of these hypothetical questions of people from the Left & Right.

    • Spartan

      Do you think most Republicans would vote for trying to save a person’s life, but if they needed professional medical care and couldn’t pay, then they should go ahead and die? 😉

      • No. If they need medical help and can’t pay, they should get the help and be obligated to pay as much as they can, over time, whatever it takes. If they can be expected to do that for a crummy college degree, surely it is fair to ask them to do the same when their lives have been saved.

        Of course, they can always decide that they would rather forgo the medical treatment to save money.

        • Spartan

          Yes. I am well aware of the Republican talking points on this topic. And, they might have a point but for the fact that the Federal government spends /wastes money on programs that picks winners and losers every day. So, it is amusing to me that this is the category where Republicans want to have a principled fight.

          • joed68

            We wouldn’t be picking winners and losers if we had socialized medicine?

            • Spartan

              No. Just like we don’t pick winners and losers with Medicare. Everyone gets basic care and, if you want/can pay for more, you get supplemental insurance.

              • we don’t pick winners and losers with Medicare.

                What do you base THAT opinion on? Have you dealt with that system? Like welfare, the color of your skin can make all the difference as to how you and your relatives are treated (medically and by the system.)

                I have had the pleasure of working with family several times for elderly relatives, and being white is a definite handicap. There are non medical opinions given as to what treatments will be paid for, based on cost effective and predicted outcomes, all in the interest of conserving resources. Those making the decisions are not accountable and can have bias. Socialized medicine would be the same.

                Progressives already think their opponents should die: just like how progressives have taken over education they will flock to these bureaucratic positions to enforce a political ideology. Get government out of healthcare!

      • joed68

        One of many false dichotomies designed by liberals and attributed to conservatives to try to make them appear heartless and mean. I think you’d see a lot more lefties rationalizing letting conservatives die, in no small measure because of these attributes assigned to us that make us look like heartless monsters.

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