Ethics Quote Of The Week: Sarah Silverman

“I love Louie, but Louie did these things. Both of those statements are true. So, I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them? I can mull that over later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims, and they’re victims because of something he did.”

—Comedian Sarah Silverman, speaking of her friend and fellow comic Louis C.K., whose career is in freefall after revelations by five women that he masturbated in front of them.

I hope Sarah doesn’t have to ponder her question too hard, because the answer should be obvious.

Of course you can love someone who did bad things. Everyone of us has, and probably does. Good people do bad things. Loving and lovable people do bad things, even terrible things. Being loved is one of the crucial life experiences that makes people better.

There are limits, of course. Still, at the root of Silverman’s question is the narrow intolerance and self-righteousness that are polarizing and fracturing our society. I find it ominous that she would ask the question.

Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and  common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach  that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.

Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”

And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.

I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.

Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:

  • Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:

I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.

These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule.  After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.

Yet now,  self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.

Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (2): “Comment Of The Day: ‘Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too’”

This is the second Comment of the Day on the post about the Alexandria, VA gym that kicked white supremacist, aka “Nazi”, Richard Spencer out because a Georgetown professor found his presence there, in town, in the universe, offensive.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

Stipulated: This person believes things that we think are wrong, and we want him, ideally, to stop believing them.

I assert that shunning him is counterproductive with regards to getting him to stop believing these things. He is almost certainly aware of the public opinion of Nazis, and he evidently doesn’t care, so peer pressure is already shown not to work. Besides, truth is not determined by a majority vote, so if we act like our numbers are the major argument against the Nazi ideology, or whatever similar ideology this person subscribes to, it not only weakens our position in his eyes, but also leads us to forget the real reasons for what we believe.

We have at least four options:

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce (Hyper-Partisan Hate Division): Merritt Tierce

Blood-money

I don’t think “blood money” means what she thinks it does…

Having just criticized Rush Limbaugh for one of his irresponsible uses of his influence, I think it’s an appropriate time to shine some harsh light on one of his unethical critics.

Merritt Tierce is a feminist author whose first novel Love Me Back chronicles her time at a high-end Dallas steakhouse. In a recent interview, she recounts how she twice served Rush and a guest.  Both times the radio host left her a $1,000 in tip on bills that would normally call for a fraction of that even if she had given the best service in the history of her trade. Was she grateful? Oh, no, she says. The cash felt like “blood money” to her, she explained. Since Tierce served as the executive director of the Texas Equal Abortion  Fund during her waitressing period, a non-profit group that provides financial assistance to low-income women seeking abortions, she donated the tips to her charity. “It felt like laundering the money in a good way,” she said. “He’s such an obvious target for any feminist or sane person. It was really bizarre to me that he gave me $2,000, and he’s evil incarnate in some ways.”

“You’re welcome, Merritt!” Continue reading