The death of John McCain is one of many important ethics stories that came on the radar screen today, and several of them warrant solo posts. At the risk of not having time to get them up today at all—this is a work day at ProEthics, for ethics never sleeps—I’m going to keep the warm-up to the lesser stories, and keep my fingers crossed.
1. Miracle Whip, Florida. The town of Mayo, in Florida’s Panhandle, secretly made a deal with the Kraft-Heinz mayonnaise alternative Miracle Whip to change the hamlet’s name so videographers could capture the residents’ shock when they hear that the name of their town is now a corporate brand. The plan was for ad-makers to film faux efforts to get residents to remove mayonnaise from their homes. Street signs and the name on the water tower had been changed and the mayor lied in an interview with the Associated Press, insisting it would be a good idea to make the name change permanent, before residents were let in on the joke.
Mayo will get between $15,000 and $25,000 to con its own citizens. The money will be used for city beautification measures, so I guess that makes it OK.
The town should impeach the mayor and everyone involved with the scheme, which was almost certainly illegal, and clearly unethical.
2. First Ma’amophobia, and now…The Atlantic explores the controversy over using “guys” as a generic term for a group of mixed gender members, as in “hey, guys!” It’s an artificial controversy, and women who take offense when a boss says “you guys” when addressing the group knowing very well that no adverse intent was behind the wording should not be indulged, tolerated or “heard.” The problem is that overly sensitive superiors and others have given undo weight to similar contrived complaints through the years, with innocent and innocuous uses of a whole dictionary of collective nouns and pronouns being declared near equivalents of racial or gender slurs.The confounding factor is that there are terms that need to be retired. The use of “girls” to describe adult women was part of societal marginalization, just as the use of “boy” for adult African American men was demeaning. Eliminating the descriptive distinction between “actors” and “actresses,” on the other hand, is based on a contrived offense.
What is objectionable is that any argument for declaring a term offensive is supposed to be per se decisive, without debate or analysis, if it’s offered by a so-called oppressed group. No group should have the privilege of not having to make its case. I will, for one, eat my foot before I submit to the rhetorical abortion that is “person of color.”
There is nothing necessarily wrong with calling a mixed group by the jocular “guys.” The alternatives all stink, in different ways. I will not use “y’all” and sound like a refugee from “Hee Haw.” “People” is imperious, and actually annoys me (though I would never complain about it). “Folks” is more informal (good) but rings phony (bad). “Friends” is presumptuous, speaking of John McCain, whose habit of addressing every group as “my friends” probably lost him a million votes in the 2008 election.
Communication shouldn’t be that hard, and definitely should not be dangerous. A little Golden Rule would go a long way toward eliminating this problem, guys.
3. More Aretha ethics…How many of you had the impression that Aretha Franklin wrote “Respect,” after reading all the post-mortem praise for her feminist bona fides?
To be fair, every single reference to that song should have been accompanied by credit for its writer…Otis Reading. Giving all the praise to Franklin for “Respect” to Aretha Franklin is like suggesting that Frank Sinatra wrote “New York, New York.”
4. Ugh. Not THIS again…Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) will name Sen. John McCain‘s successor. Under Arizona state law, the Ducey-appointed replacement will fill the seat until 2020, when there will be a special election for the right to finish out the final two years of McCain’s term. Then there will be an election for a full six-year term in the 2022 election.
There is speculation Ducey will appoint McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, to his seat. This is a lazy and incompetent solution that too many governors, in both parties, have succumbed to, almost always inflicting an unqualified, easily manipulated political tyro in an important job.
This is an old, deplorable practice that inflicts other nations as well, called “widow’s succession.” It should be outlawed.
Here is a complete list of the wives who have been handed their husband’s job upon his demise—eight in the Senate, and an embarrassing 39 in the House. Exactly one such widow went on to have a respectable career in Congress: Margaret Chase Smith. [ Correction: I neglected to put in the link originally; fixed now.]