Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Why Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Gloucester PTO’s “Don Trump” Gravestone

In Gloucester, Massachusetts last week, the parent-teacher organization hosted a Halloween themed fundraiser at West Parish Elementary School.   One of the parents was thoughtful enough to bring a bean bag toss game that featured fake tombstones. One of them had the familiar name “Don Trump” on it. Hilarious! And so clever…

Surprisingly, at least to the thoughtful parents and the host who didn’t have the sense to say, “Cute! But you know we can’t display that…”, not everyone present, even in the Bluer than Blue Bay State of my birth, revels in the thought of the President of the United States dying in office.  Several  parents took photos of the fun game, and sent them to Massachusetts Republican Party committeewoman Amanda Orlando Kesterson, who shared one of the them on Facebook along with a searing post, which read in part,

“I find it absolutely despicable that the PTO of one of our local elementary schools would bring this political agenda before our children. The parents or teachers responsible for this disgusting display should claim responsibility publicly and apologize publicly as well. … We should teach our children that the office of the president ALWAYS deserves respect. Our school system is not the place for nasty political agendas.”

One question that puzzles me: did they object to the fundraiser organizers before sending the photos? That would be the ethical course. There’s nothing wrong with ring those ethics alarms by hand if they are stuck.

After the controversy erupted into the news media, the school principal, Dr. Telena Imel, apologized in a letter to parents, saying

“Intentionally or not, it inappropriately brought a political agenda into what was designed to be a fun family affair. Our school, and this includes school events sponsored by related groups, is not the place for politics. In planning future events, it will be made clear to organizers that school is not the place to engage in or to display political agendas or opinions.”

Oh, I think it’s fair to conclude that it was intentional.

The parents responsible for the  game  apologized, as did Gloucester’s mayor, who said in a statement, “The City of Gloucester does not condone political messaging within our schools.”

There is no other way to describe this incident except as a mass ethics alarms malfunction, one that is overwhelmingly afflicting Democrats. (Okay, one more question: Did any Democratic-leaning parents see what was wrong with the Dead Donald reference?) I am old enough to remember the assassination of Jack Kennedy, a Massachusetts native son. I can’t imagine anyone in my state not recoiling at any hint of a casual or satirical reference to another President’s death, even Nixon, and Mass was the only state that voted for George McGovern.

We almost had another assassination  when two crazy women took shots at Gerald Ford, and then one more near miss, when a sick Jodie Foster fan somehow thought killing Ronald Reagan would entrance her. When did this ethics alarm get broken, and how? The gravestone of the current President being presented as an appropriate Halloween decoration in an event with children present? Hosted by a parent-teacher organization? No alarms? Not even faint ringing? In Massachusetts, where everyone once knew “Abraham, Martin and John” by heart?

The alarms didn’t ring in part because teachers began thinking that indoctrinating children in their own political views became accepted practice during the Bush administration, as schools started showing Al Gore’s climate change agitprop in class. The Bush administration wasn’t behind the trend, but the Obama administration encouraged it, especially during the Post Sandy Hook anti-gun freak-out. Teachers were punishing kids for finger guns and biting pizza and pop tarts into pistol shapes even before that.

Still, the “It’s not good citizenship to joke about killing the President” alarm was functioning even if the “Don’t indoctrinate kids in partisan politics” clapper had been covered in bubble-wrap. Then the nation’s voters had the audacity to reject an awful, corrupt and dishonest Democratic Party candidate whose campaign had included calling anyone who opposed her a sexist, and anyone who voted for her opponent as “deplorable,” as well as promising that she carry on the policies of that wonderful President who had so thoroughly divided the nation in eight years that someone like Donald Trump—well, not just like him, but him— had been nominated to run against her. Suddenly the very same people who had lectured Trump and Trump supporters about how in the U.S., after an election, no matter how contentious, good citizens always put down their placards and unite behind the winner, validating and honoring American democracy and the wisdom of the people and our system of selecting leaders, did a back somersault reminiscent of Nadia Comanici her prime, and declared, in demonstrations and boycotts and calls for various means of undoing the election,  that this President didn’t deserve that deference and respect.

Then various voices in the party made vague and not so vague references to how nice it would be if someone “took out” the President. (That’s Maxine Waters’ term.) After the Charlottesville riots, Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal—I wonder what party she belongs to?–went on her personal Facebook and said to a commenter, “I hope Trump is assassinated!”

The main pro-Trump death chorus, however, came from that saintly community that is always doing yeoman service as the culture’s moral exemplar, the entertainment business—you know, where Harvey Weinstein and the cool, beautiful, progressive people hang out. Madonna told an audience, “Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair.” Johnny Depp told another throng, “This is going to be in the press and it’ll be horrible. But I like that you are all a part of it. When was the last time an actor assassinated a President?” Rapper Snoop Dogg remixed  “Lavender” by Canadian band BadBadNotGood adding a clown-clad version of President Trump called Ronald Klump, and showed him being  shot with a toy gun.

Last summer, New York’s acclaimed Public Theater staged a version of William Shakespeare’s ” Julius Caesar” in  Central Park with the crowd-pleasing gimmick of portraying Julius Caesar as a Trump clone. The audience cheered as he was assassinated in an on-stage blood bath. And, lest we forget, there was this:

All in good fun, of course!

Thus are once functioning ethics alarms silenced.

Now read the comments to Ms Kesterson’s Facebook post.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/23/17

1. When I am forced to be away from Ethics Alarms for a long time, as was the case yesterday, it often renews my musings about whether I respond too much to reader comments. Everyone generally does just fine when I’m silent, and sometimes I find that fascinating and unexpected new topics have not only sprung from whatever ethics fertilizer I left behind,  but have grown and flourished like bamboo.

Unfortunately, I have also noticed that there have been a lot ( as in “too many”) of extended arguments between commenters that not only extend beyond reasonable limits, but also explode into personal attacks. I admit that Ethics Alarms is, for a moderated blog, unusually tolerant of this phenomenon. One reason for that is that sometimes such epic confrontations are both entertaining and enlightening, as when liberal commenter and Ethics Alarms immortal tgt and uber-conservative commenter Steven J. Pilling engaged in the Ethics Alarms equivalent of the Lincoln Douglas debates, only occasionally snapping and calling each other names.

However, while the occasional emotional outbursts are excusable, they should be rare. Reprimanding a commenter for  commenting style and habits is certainly fair, but doing it repeatedly is boring; and I want to remind everyone that while it is often frustrating, allowing someone to have the last word is not capitulation, especially when that last word is not particularly persuasive.

We also owe ourselves and everyone else self-awareness. When a commenter finds himself or herself repeatedly embroiled in long, heated exchanges, that commenter should consider the possibility that he or she is the problem.

The general principle is that we should strive to have all comments contain substance that advances the discussion. “You’re an asshole” is occasionally justified (when a comment has objectively revealed a commenter to be an asshole, and even then is not mandatory), but rarely.

2. When President Trump issued his trolling tweet about James Comey and the possibility that there were “tapes” of their conversations, I wrote that it was the President’s dumbest tweet to date. (I think he has made worse ones since, but at this point any tweet by the President is evidence of crippling stubbornness, impulsiveness and bad judgment). I did not think that what was obviously a bluff without substance would still be considered a headline-worthy issue many weeks later. Continue reading

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What Is An Ethical Tiger Lily?

Believe it or not, this is Disney's version of an Indian chief.

Disney’s version of an Indian chief.

I recently watched the Disney “Peter Pan,” long my favorite of the classic animated films, which I had not seen from beginning to end in decades. I was genuinely shocked at the portrayal of the Indians, which would make the average movie Western seem politically correct and the Washington Redskins seem like a compliment. I know the story is a fantasy; I know that these are not supposed to represent real Native Americans, but a Victorian child’s visualization of the villains of their games. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine the effect of such a film on a Native American child as being anything but devastating. The Neverland Indians, and their heroine, Tiger Lily, have been a human relations problem since at least the civil rights era, and the provocation is legitimate: did you recall (I had forgotten) that Tiger Lily belonged to the “Piccaninny tribe”? That James Barrie was a funny guy. Continue reading

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The White House’s Wonderland Ethics

This is a weird one.

"Alice in Wonderland" party at the White House? I don't remember any party!

“The Obamas,” one of those “behind the scenes at the White House” books that has become a routine feature of every administration since the Reagans, has the usual tales about First Couples bickering and First Lady power trips. Author and  New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor has caused something of an uproar with her account of the first Halloween party the first couple hosted at the White House, in 2009. She writes that it was so lavish and “over the top” that the administration kept the event secret out of fear of a public backlash. After all, this was a time when the Tea Party was in full swing, the economy was at low tide, and there was the ten-percent unemployment rate, bank bailouts and Obama’s health-care plan battles. Not exactly a smart time for a Marie Antoinette-style costume blow-out. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture

The Second Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The BEST of Ethics 2010

The Best in Ethics 2010. Not nearly long enough…but still a lot of men, women and deeds worth celebrating.

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society, War and the Military, Workplace

Ethics Hero: Johnny Depp

Hollywood celebrities frequently lend their prominence and notoriety to causes that are dubious or even harmful; Jenny McCarthy’s passionate promotion of now-discredited links between vaccines and autism are a recent and disturbing example. At other times, celebrities assert expertise on complex topics far beyond their competence or comprehension; this was a theme in Michael Crichton’s attack on global warming hysteria, State of Fear. Johnny Depp, however, has got it right. As his highly anticipated film “Alice in Wonderland” is about to be released and he has the media following his every move, Depp is using his fame and following to focus attention on what may be an egregious miscarriage of justice.

It is the case of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, police discovered the bodies of  three 8-year-olds, and there was immediate speculation that their killings had been part of a satanic ritual. Satanic cults were big in 1993, and long-haired Damien Echols became a suspect as much for his demeanor and reputation as for anything substantive. Indeed, there was no evidence tying him to the crime until a cognitively impaired boy named Jessie Misskelly Jr. told police that he helped Echols and Jason Baldwin kill the boys. Continue reading

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