Ethical Quote Of The Week: Relationship Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax

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“[I]t’s time you made the acquaintance of an institution we all must embrace at some point in life: the thankless task. That’s how you file away changing a baby’s diaper, paying your taxes, visiting a relative turned cranky from infirmities, throwing in extra toward the tip because everyone else left the table. You do these because they’re the right thing to do, even though babies don’t sit up and say thanks for the squeaky-clean butt.”

—–Syndicated advice columnist and natural-born ethics whiz Carolyn Hax, answering a young woman’s question regarding the proper response to someone who should have thanked her for a kindness, but did not.

The letter writer was a high school athlete who, like most high school students today, had never been introduced to the satirical wisdom of philosopher/humorist Ambrose Bierce in his indispensable “The Devil’s Dictionary.”  The young woman had organized a senior night tribute to a graduating teammate, who then expressed no gratitude after the event.

“I am not sure whether or when I should broach the subject. Am I being needy and selfish, or do I have a legitimate case for feeling disowned?” she queried Hax.

As she is about 98% of the time, the columnist was spot on in her response. Doing good things and right things do not assume some kind of quid pro quo, cosmic or otherwise, in this  world or a subsequent one. Learning to feel good about doing the right thing whether you are praised, rewarded, thanked, or derive any tangible benefits yourself is one of the hardest lesson on the way to ethical living, and one of the most important. No, you shouldn’t assume that you will be treated unfairly, as Bierce suggests. As he meant to warn you, however, you shouldn’t be surprised, either.

Do not expect karma, or justice, or thanks—don’t even hold out for credit. Just figure out the right thing to do–how you would want to be treated, how you wish everyone would act, the conduct that will make society better for everyone by solving problems or making them bearable—and do it. Those who don’t understand that it’s also right to reciprocate by exhibiting recognition and gratitude  haven’t figured things out yet, and their ethics alarms are jammed.

Be glad yours are in good repair.

Out Of 199 Quotes, 40 That Reveal Donald Trump’s Ethics

Slogging through 199 Donald Trump quotes is too much for anyone to endure. Here are the 40 that matter...

Slogging through 199 Donald Trump quotes is too much for anyone to endure. Here are 40 that matter…

I don’t like or trust the technique of cherry-picking quotes from famous people to make them sound stupid, venal, mean or distasteful. First of all, the technique has been  abused by the news media, which uses it against people like Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle, but seldom digs up quotes to embarrass the leaders and political figures they like and support. Many liberal icons—Barney Frank comes to mind—talk so incessantly that it would be easy to make them sound like monsters or fools using the technique, but if it is done to these people at all, it is done by ideological blogs with minimal exposure. Second, those who make such lists often cheat, taking quotes out of context, or worse, making them up. Many lists designed to show that Sarah Palin is an idiot, for example (she is many things, but idiot is not among them) use lines actually said by Tina Fay while lampooning Palin.

Michael Kruse’s feature for Politico called “The 199 Most Donald Trump Things Donald Trump Has Ever Said”, however, deserves a bit more deference. After all, he appears to have waded through a putrid swamp of Trump interviews, books, and videos, which probably left him drooling and giggling in a corner some place; I’ll be relieved when I see evidence that he’s OK. That task took courage, dedication and endurance: attention must be paid. Moreover, this isn’t the usual list of ten or twenty quotes: you could make Stephen Hawking  seem like a dolt in twenty quotes if you chose them maliciously. This is 199. Impressive.

Also horrifying. In selecting the 199 juiciest and most provocative quotes from any prominent American, wouldn’t you expect at least one that was articulate, thoughtful, wise or memorable? I’m not looking for Samuel Butler here, or even Barack Obama, but for someone who is at least for the nonce a “serious” candidate for the highest office in the land, it would be reassuring to find some evidence of wit, perspective, reflection, or a vocabulary beyond that of a typical 8th grader, and it just isn’t there. Has Trump  read any literature? Has he ever seen a play? Is he capable of a relevant famous quote or a cultural reference (saying that Bette Midler is “grotesque” doesn’t count, though “grotesque” may be the most sophisticated word that appears on the list)? If so, there is no hint of it. Maybe Kruse intentionally left out quotes that would reflect well on Trump, and omitted utterances like “I suppose there’s a melancholy tone at the back of the American mind, a sense of something lost. And it’s the lost world of Thomas Jefferson. It is the lost sense of innocence that we could live with a very minimal state, with a vast sense of space in which to work out freedom” (George Will) or “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators” (P.J. O’Roarke) or even“Our political differences, now matter how sharply they are debated, are really quite narrow in comparison to the remarkably durable national consensus on our founding convictions.” (John McCain). I doubt it.

There are three Trump bon mots in the 199 that barely justify quoting, like  #57: Continue reading