Saturday Ethics Cool-Off, 5/22/2021: Another “Bad Ethics Date”


Yikes. May 22 is another of those cursed dates where ethics rot was in the air. For example, in 1958, rock superstar Jerry Lee Lewis admitted that his new bride was a child. He even lied while doing that, “admitting” she was 15 when Myra Gail Lewis was actually only 13 years old,and also Jerry Lee’s first cousin. Another detail Lewis didn’t mention was that the loving pair had married five months before his divorce from his second wife. Jerry Lee insisted the second marriage wasn’t legally valid because that one had taken place before his divorce from his first wife.

Other ethics low points on this day:

  • In 1939, Italy and Germany agreed to a military and political alliance, giving birth to the Axis powers, which would eventually include Japan.
  • In 1856, Southern Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beats Northern Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber. On May 19, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner began a two-day speech on the Senate floor in which he attacked three pro-slavery colleagues by name, one of whom, South Carolina Senator Andrew P. Butler, was sick and absent from the proceedings. Butler’s cousin, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina, decided to defend the honor of his kin. Wielding a cane, Brooks entered the Senate chamber and began beating Sumner at his desk, which was bolted to the floor. Sumner’s legs were pinned by the desk so he could not escape, and the beating continued until Senators subdued Brooks. Brooks supporters cheered the vicious act and sent him many replacement canes. Sumner could not return to the Senate for three years while he recuperated from his injuries.
  • In 2017, right after pop star after Ariana Grande finished the final song of her May 22 concert at Manchester Arena in Great Britain, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion killing 22 concertgoers and injuring 116 more. ISIS claimed responsibility.
  • In 1868 the “Great Train Robbery” was pulled off, with seven members of the Reno Gang getting away with $98,000 in cash from a train’s safe in Indiana.

And a special Happy Birthday to Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” born this day in Evergreen Park, Illinois in 1942. Yes, we’re still keeping him alive; after all, he only murdered three innocent people (he maimed or injured 23 others.).

1. The Great Stupid, International Strain: The Globe Theatre, Great Britain’s famous reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse where William Shakespeare had his works first performed, has launched a project to “decolonise’ Shakespeare’s plays, the centerpiece of Western literature. The Globe has been listening to experts who conclude that his work is ‘problematic’ for linking whiteness to beauty. Another academic maintains all of Shakespeare’s plays are “race plays’ as they all contain ‘whiteness’. For example, the first line of the 1595 comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” famously opens with Thesus saying: “Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace.”

The Horror. Why any “expert” who makes an argument like this isn’t regarded exactly as if she had appeared in public naked, painted blue and wearing a squid on her head is beyond me. As Great Stupid break-outs go, this one is pretty trivial. Shakespeare plays have been routinely debased by absurd adaptations and meat-axe editing for centuries. The only reason this example is noteworthy is its source. You’d think the keepers of the Bard’s flame in England would have more sense, not to mention respect. [Pointer: Other Bill]

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Pole-Dancing for Kids: Icky or Unethical?

The latest issue of “Pole Spin,” the “international pole dance and lifestyle magazine,” features “the world’s youngest pole dancer” and a proud family with four  pole-dancing teenagers.

Is this wrong? Child porn? Bad parenting? What the heck is it when something with sexual connotations is used by children in a non-sexual way? Continue reading

A Looming Ethical Dilemma: Family Health Incentives

Over at The Juggle, Sue Shellenbarger examines the increasing tendency of employers to attempt to control health care costs by encouraging behavior and life-style changes on the part of employees and their families. I think this is inevitable, but it opens up a slew of ethical issues. Do we really want our employers trying to influence how we eat, exercise,and spend our free time? On the other hand, do we give up the right to complain when we expect them to pay for our health problems, even those that are self-induced? Where do we want to draw the lines regarding what is acceptable employer interference among such measures as… Continue reading