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.