Another 7-11 Encounter: There Is Hope.

yankees-vs-red-sox

For over a decade, a cynical, destructive, dangerous and—let’s see, is there another good adjective? Yes!— unethical strategy has been pursued to strip away all trust between the races, to use racial guilt for profit and power, to make black Americans fear and hate white Americans and to cause white Americans to resent their blacks neighbors. This is, disgracefully, a deliberate choice by elements in our society and politics in order to achieve power. It is an existential threat to the United States, our society and our culture, and has never been more so than now.

I was running an errand for Grace to the local 7-11. As I got out of my car, wearing a black #*&!@#!! mask, my path intersected with that of another man on the way to the convenience store. All I could see were his eyes and his skin-color (he was African-American), and the rest was attire: a New York Yankees cap and a Yankees team jacket. I was one up on him: I was wearing my Red Sox cap, a Boston team jacked AND my Red Sox canvas deck shoes.

The stranger, who appeared to be around my age, froze dramatically as we came face to face about ten feet apart, extended his arms, and exclaimed, “What is this, a beer ad?” and laughed. I replied, “I think it has to be!,” and he followed me into the store. We stopped a few feet inside the door, and talked for 20 minutes about baseball, our teams, various players, baseball ethics (steroids and cheating), and life. He was such a friendly, smart and funny guy; I loved talking with him. Then he gave me a fist bump, and we parted. I never even got his name.

There was nothing in our interaction that day that involved race or anything else contentious. We were just two human beings and citizens of the United States who have a lot more in common and a lot more to talk about together than group identities and conflict. The encounter reminded me that the bonds that unite us as a nation are still stronger and more resilient than the enemies of democracy think they are.

And as I got back into my car, the most famous quote from Anne Frank’s diary suddenly popped into my head: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Not all people, certainly, but just maybe enough of them.

There is hope.

And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Anne Frank “Gag”

Talk about ethics alarms malfunctioning.

Fortunately, I had already disavowed my Harvard degree before this surfaced, so I am only mortified rather than trying to figure out how to flush myself down the toilet.

Above is an allegedly  humorous gag from Harvard’s student-run humor magazine, which once gave us Robert Benchley, Al Franken, and “Animal House.”  [Full disclosure: I was rejected by the Lampoon when I competed to join the staff as a student. ] The magazine has often championed sophomoric humor as well as bad taste, but there are limits to everything. I’d say using the image and memory of a brave and iconic Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp for a cheap, spectacularly unfunny photoshop gag is over the line, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t just about anyone with an atom of common sense and decency?

Fortunately, some Harvard students erupted in anger over the photo of Frank’s head grafted on the body of a pumped-up busty bikini girl and the “ Add this to the list of  reasons the Holocaust  sucked” punch line. So did the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League,  which condemned  the cartoon as a “vulgar, offensive & sexualized” meme that “denigrates [Anne Frank’s] memory & millions of Holocaust victims….Trivializing genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers.” Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Miep Gies, 1909-2010

Miep Gies, the last surviving participant in the inspiring story of Anne Frank, died last week, a month short of her 101st birthday.

One of the most important objectives of thinking about ethics, and challenging ourselves to find the most ethical courses in the dilemmas and conflicts we read and hear about every day, is to be ready if and when a time comes when lives depend on our ability to determine the right thing to do, and to have the courage do it. I have no idea how much or how often Miep Gies thought about ethics. But when her time came, she was ready. Continue reading