Steve-O-In-NJ has been a veritable Samuel Pepys of late, and there are more than one potential COTD in his recent output. But I’m a sucker for personal anecdotes, so let’s start with this, Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Dr. Mary Rudyk,” in which a hospital official advocated lying and fear-mongering “for the greater good”…
“It’s not about changing anyone’s mind, it’s about changing their behavior.
“Many years ago when I had just finished law school and was studying for the bar, still living at home, my mother wanted me to take my aged (86) grandfather to a reunion at his college in MA. I really couldn’t afford to give up four days of study to chauffeur a man who was slipping mentally four hours each way and babysit him while he did nothing but drink himself under the table and repeat embarrassing stories and dirty jokes (his favorite was the one about the misunderstanding in French between a hat and a condom) that my grandmother would always stop him from telling while she was alive.
“Any other time, ok, but while studying for the bar was too big of an ask, and I said sorry, but no, maybe she could ask another family member (there were others). However, Mom was the kind of person who, once she got it into her head that she wanted YOU to do something that she thought was important enough, dammit, she was going to make YOU do it, come high water, hurricane, or the end of the world.
“So she stepped back for the moment, only to renew the request, except it was now more like a demand, two days later in the middle of dinner. Once again I held my ground. Twice more she demanded I do this, each time when I wasn’t expecting her to ask again. Finally she told me, “This is not a request, this is a requirement. Either you do this, or you have two days to pack your bags and move out. I don’t care if you have nowhere to go, I don’t care if you have almost no money, I don’t care if you fail the bar a hundred times over, I don’t care if you have to live in your car or in the gutter, but THAT IS WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU DON’T DO THIS!” It was a financial and social gun to the head.
“So I resigned myself to doing it.
“We might as well not have bothered with that fight, because a week later my grandfather suffered a heart attack which almost killed him, and then a stroke, while undergoing bypass surgery, that paralyzed one side of his body (I don’t remember which, it was so long ago now). He wasn’t going anywhere, least of all to a reunion. He lay in bed, first in rehab (which did not a damn thing for him) then at home after his coverage ran out, until his body shut down completely around Halloween of that year.
“However, I never forgot that discussion with my mother. A couple of years later, when I struck out on my own, I reminded Mom of that fight, and told her in no uncertain terms, “I’m an adult and a lawyer now. I’m not your servant, and I’m not a twelve-year-old who has to come running every time you yell across the house like a fishwife. I do you favors at my sufferance, and if you EVER talk to me like you talked to me that time again, it will be the last time you talk to me in this world or the next!”
“Mom backed off me, and cut the demands back to a bare minimum until she was dying herself and starting to slip mentally due to the pain-killers and the pain they could only reduce, not quell.
“My point is that if someone who has more power than you decides they want you to do something, and they want it badly enough not to let you say no, eventually they stop demanding, scaring, and threatening. Eventually they take the gloves off and just force it from you, putting a metaphorical or literal gun to your head if that’s what it takes. We’re not there yet, but that time is coming in this country.