Tag Archives: funerals

Chaos, Kindness, Vivian Landis, and Me

Yesterday I attended the funeral of Vivian Landis, mother of my long-time friend Lise Landis. Vivian was 98 years old when she died, and by all accounts had a wonderful and rewarding life. She also played a big part in mine, by doing what she apparently did routinely: being kind.

Mrs. Landis, along with her late husband Paul, were, by sheer chance, placed in the position of being the Chaos Theory butterfly in the Amazon jungle that causes a momentous chain of events by flapping its wings. They exemplify to me why it is vital for all of us to strive to live using ethical values. We have often no idea what the results will be, but the odds are they will be more good than bad.

In 1972, I had been rejected by all of my choices for law school, though I had been wait-listed at Georgetown. However, it was August, the fall semester was looming, and no word from Washington, D.C. had reached me. Discouraged but resigned, I said the hell with it, and resolved to take a year off, perhaps to craft my thesis on character and the American Presidency into a book. In the meantime, I decided to join my parents and sister on what bid fair to be our last family vacation. Dad had planned one of his typical forced marches, this one through Reno, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I was having a great time, relaxing, enjoying the sights, when a ranger tracked us down on the Yosemite canyon floor. Our next-door neighbors in Arlington Mass. had sent a telegram forwarding a Georgetown telegram to the Marshall homestead: a slot for me had just opened up in the 1975 Class, but to claim it, I had to be at the Law Center to register Monday morning—and it was Sunday. And I was in California.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to law school at that point, but my dad was determined that I should take the opportunity. We cut short our Yosemite visit and drove to San Francisco, where I was deposited on a red-eye to Dulles. I had few clothes, and knew nobody in the District of Columbia or anywhere near it. Somehow, I was assured, my family would have a plan for me by the time I arrived. I was to call their hotel in Frisco once I had registered. Continue reading

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The Flat Learning Curve Continues: Obama Skips Nancy Reagan’s Funeral. Of Course He Does.

Obama's job learning curve: still flat.

Obama’s job learning curve: still flat.

I wasn’t going to comment on this until two of my many clueless Facebook friends had to mock an indignant article about it on a conservative site. I don’t think Obama skipping Nancy Reagan’s funeral is worthy of outrage, but it is sad. It’s almost as sad as the degree to which the people who elected him have never comprehended what his job is.

Obama is not attending Nancy’s funeral because he was previously committed to attend a vital event called South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival. Michelle Obama will speak at the funeral, but she is also speaking at the festival, making it obvious that the President could also do both if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to, just as he didn’t want to show respect to a sitting Supreme Court Justice who had died suddenly by attending his funeral.

That’s Obama; we should know him by now. He’s a petty, small man, but more important, he doesn’t seize opportunities to repair the poisonous partisan divide that he helped create because he doesn’t understand the symbolic nature of the Presidency, or just doesn’t give a damn. That attitude—I think both are true— has played a major role in creating the non-functioning government and the societal divisions he will leave as his primary legacy. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Should President Obama Attend Scalia’s Funeral? Of Course.

NICK SCHNELLE/JOURNAL STAR Pastor Larry Zurek leads a funeral mass for former Peoria Fire Cheief Ernie Russell on Friday morning at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Russell was 74.

President Obama, we learned from Josh Earnest, won’t be honoring the late Justice Antonin Scalia by attending his funeral, and the Presidential spokesman couldn’t even say what weekend activity Obama deems more important. Already, conservative commentators and pundits are calling the odd decision an intentional snub, and many on the left are also obviously puzzled, causing them to make up excuses, like suggesting that the Scalia family told the President of the United States to stay away.

It’s not a snub, of course. It’s just a willfully lost opportunity to show some non-partisan class and leadership, or in other words, Obama being Obama. We’ve seen this kind of irrational, arrogant, toxic conduct from him before, as when he was the only world leader who wouldn’t deign to join with other heads of state in the mass support of France following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. This is Obama’s “It’s my Presidency and I’ll be a jerk if I want to” streak, unattractive, petty, and a major reason why the United States is as culturally, politically and societally fractured as it is.  Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership

Ethics Heroes: The Mourners of Harold Jellicoe Percival

It’s a simple story.

Thanks Dad. Thanks, Harold. Oh, shut up. Justin!

Thanks Dad. Thanks, Harold. Oh, shut up. Justin!

From the Los Angeles Times:

When Harold Jellicoe Percival died last month, the British World War II veteran’s obituary mentioned that he had no close family to attend his funeral. But after the obituary went viral, hundreds of people showed up to honor him Monday. Percival, who served as a member of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command, died on Oct. 25 at the age of 99. His obituary requested that “any service personnel who can attend his funeral service would be appreciated.” It spread across social media brought it to the attention of service members and veterans organizations in Britain, They, in turn, rallied people to attend his funeral and honor his memory on Armistice Day.

There were reportedly 100 mourners in the church, and another 400 standing outside.

The ethical virtues demonstrated here are respect, gratitude, kindness, and citizenship. Somebody please explain this to Salon’s clueless, obnoxious, ungrateful and ethically, historically, logically and rhetorically-challenged writer Justin Doolittle, who argues that there is no reason to thank veterans for doing the dirty work of democracy and putting their lives on the line to protect his. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, History, The Internet, War and the Military

Jonathan Capehart’s Confrontation Against Bigotry: Better Than Nothing, But Not Enough

confrontationWashington Post writer Jonathan Capehart shared a personal experience in a column today. Attending an aunt’s funeral in  church in the North Carolina community of her birth, he sat fuming as a guest minister used the occasion to condemn all gays as sinners, and urging them to use faith to give up their sinful ways.

Capehart, who is openly gay, decided that he was obligated not to accept this insult without a response. Here is what he did:

“After the visiting preacher was thanked for his rousing sermon by the congregation and the home pastor, the two made their way to us in the  front pew. During his oration, I vowed I would not shake his hand. But I did, given the immediate circumstances. So I used that as opportunity to make my displeasure known. As he shook my hand and leaned down for a sympathetic hug, I told the preacher, “Your sermon was offensive!” He leaned back, looked at me and replied, “What?” I repeated, “Your sermon was offensive to me. I need you to know that. That’s all I have to say.”

That seemed to satisfy Capehart. “As he moved his way down the pew, the anger I felt was replaced by relief and pride. Never before had I faced down religion-based bigotry. And it felt great.”

I feel terrible for Capehart having to endure such an indignity, and I’m glad what he did  made him feel better. But in no way did he “face down religious bigotry,” and I agree that facing down religious bigotry was called for. What did he do, really? He told the reverend that he was offended. He didn’t even say why he was offended. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy

GLAAD Joins The Hilaria Baldwin Ethics Lionel Wreck

model_trainwreck2

Ethics train wrecks can develop at any time, though sometimes the participants and the incidents involved limit the results to small-scale ethics damage. Let’s call these “Ethics Lionel Wrecks,” in honor of the model train sitting in a cardboard box in my basement. This week’s tale of Hilaria Baldwin’s mistimed tweets defines the genre.

The progression:

1. George Stark Starts the Train

This one began when the pregnant wife of actor/ pitchman/liberal blowhard/ bully Alec Baldwin was called out by the Daily Mail for tweeting trivial, giddy messages during the funeral of recently departed actor James Gandolfini. That would have been certifiably disrespectful conduct in the rare sub-category of Funeral Ethics; indeed Ethics Alarms certified it. The problem is that Mail reporter George Stark was wrong.

Salon explained that the error was caused by “a technical glitch on Twitter that reflected GMT instead of ET…an analysis of the source code of Hilaria Baldwin’s tweets reveals that she tweeted between 11 am and 2 pm, as opposed to 8 am to 11 am. The Daily Mail has stated that “the tweets did appear accurately timed on mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads,” but “the only way MailOnline was able to establish the REAL time the tweets were sent was by viewing the twitter web page source code, something almost no normal member of the public would ever do.”

I have no idea what the hell that means, but I was one of the people who relied on Stark’s report, which seemed convincing, with screen shots of the tweets themselves and their timestamps. Was he unethically sloppy, as Baldwin and others have claimed, or was this just an excusable mistake? Twitter is new enough that there may be some justification for not checking the source code before using the time stamp to conclude something from a tweet: I can’t determine whether there is a journalistic protocol for this at the Daily Mail or elsewhere. Before a reporter attacks the conduct of a pregnant woman at a friend’s funeral, he would presumably be obligated to be certain of his facts, since readers, like me, will assume that he was. If this really was, as Salon says, a freak Twitter glitch, then Stark was unlucky rather than unethical.

2. Ethics Alarms rides the rails Continue reading

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Hilaria Baldwin’s Funeral Etiquette

[Update: June 28The tweets that inspired this commentary were shown to be wrongly time-stamped, and the reporter’s newspaper have apologized for the error, but not before there were some other developments, discussed here.  Ethics Alarms apologizes to Hilaria too. The criticism of her is withdrawn; the commentary below about tweeting at funerals, and Hilaria’s husband stands.]

In case you wondered what kind of a woman would marry actor Alec Baldwin during his late career, “mega-jerk and proud of it phase, wonder no more.

Baldwin’s wife Hilaria demonstrated that she is at least as self-centered, rude and lacking respect for basic human courtesies by tweeting her head off during James Gandolfini’s funeral in New York.

It’s simple, really. You don’t have to attend anybody’s funeral (though, as Yogi Berra famously warned, if you don’t go to theirs, they won’t come to yours), but if you do, you are obligated to put aside the petty details of your life for a few hours while you solemnly and respectfully join family members and friends in remembering and honoring the concluded life of the deceased. You don’t spent the time passing notes with knock-knock jokes on them to other mourners, you don’t hum inappropriate ditties, and you sure as hell don’t spend the funeral tweeting inane stuff like like this... Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Etiquette and manners, The Internet