“the benefit of the doubt”
OK, Facebook Friends, Let’s Pretend It Isn’t Kavanaugh…Let’s Pretend It’s ME.
I’ve had this post composed in my head for some time, and have hesitated to complete it. I really don’t like upsetting people I care about, much as some might think otherwise.
However, there has been such escalating fanaticism on Facebook (and elsewhere, of course), ringing through the echo chamber, about how Dr. Ford must be “believed” and how the judge is a “serial rapist,” I have to ask: would you all treat me this way? Would you react to seeing my career and reputation derailed by the sudden appearance of a high school acquaintance who announces that she has only recently come to realize that I had sexually assaulted her at a party? After hearing my denials, would you decided to determine that her account, with no verification by any witnesses, with the large amount of time past and with absolutely nothing in my record, professional or private life, to suggest any such proclivities, should be sufficient to have me labelled as untrustworthy?
Don’t resort to the “but he’s going to sit on the Supreme Court” trick. I’m a professional ethicist: an accusation that is widely metastasized into doubts about my character, including using it to tar me a liar, would be just as ruinous to me as the late hit on Kavanaugh is disastrous to him. There is no “well, this is wrong UNLESS its a Supreme Court nominee” principle: that’s a pure rationalization. No, if the Ford accusation, with all of its flaws, its basis in fading and rediscovered memories, the fact that it involved juveniles, all of that, and the objective professional observations by Rachel Mitchell that found several reasons why Ford’s testimony was incredible, is still enough to allow you to condemn Judge Kavanaugh, then it must be enough for you to condemn me too.
But I’ll make it easier for you: let’s say its me that is the current Supreme Court nominee, and me that your favorite party has condemned as a threat to civilization. (And lets assume that you haven’t read any of my judicial decisions either.) Continue reading
The Doctor, The Emergency And The Flight Attendant: A Depressing Ethics Tale With No Ethical Resolution In Sight
Tamika Cross, a young OB-GYN flying Delta from Detroit to Minneapolis, heard flight attendants calling for medical assistance when a passenger man two rows in front of her was found to be unconscious. Dr. Cross raised her hand, only to be told, according to Cross’s subsequent Facebook post on the incident, “Oh no, sweetie, put your hand down. We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel. We don’t have time to talk to you.”
Cross says she tried to explain that she was a physician, but was “cut off by condescending remarks,” from the attendant. A moment later, when there was a second call for medical assistance and Cross again indicated that she was ready to help, the same flight attendant said, according to Cross, “Oh wow, you’re an actual physician?” She then quizzed Cross about her credentials, area of practice, and where she worked. In the meantime, a white, middle-aged male passenger appeared, and Cross, she says, was dismissed.
On her now viral Facebook post, Dr. Cross concludes:
“She came and apologized to me several times and offering me Skymiles. I kindly refused. This is going higher than her. I don’t want Skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this….and I will still get my Skymiles….”
What’s going on here?
1. This was an emergency situation.
2. Dr. Cross sincerely felt insulted and treated with disrespect.
3. She also feels that she was the victim of stereotyping,, bias and prejudice.
4. Her account can be presumed to be an honest recounting of how she experienced the episode.
5. The Roshomon principles apply. We do not know how the flight attendant perceived the situation as it developed, and will never know, since the incident is already tainted with accusations of racism.
6. This was an emergency situation.
7. There is no way to determine what the flight attendant was thinking.
8. Despite all of the above, observers, analysts and others will be inclined see the event as confirmation of their own already determined beliefs and assumptions.
9. This was a single incident, involving a set of factors interacting in unpredictable ways.
Next, some ethical observations…. Continue reading
Child Protection Ethics: The Case of the Boozing Third-Grader
In Longwood, Florida, Patricia-Ann Jackson Denault thought it would be funny to post pictures of her son, 7, drinking whiskey on Facebook, titling it “first shot.” Someone thought it was more alarming than funny, and called the police. Three uniformed officers and Child Protective Services came to her house and interviewed both her and her kids. Denault explained her humor theory, and said she wanted the children “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting.”
They were not impressed. She was arrested and charged with child neglect.
Apparently this is becoming a cause celebre in conservative circles, and example of the nanny state going too far. I don’t see it:
- A photo on Facebook showed an adult persuading a very young child to drink a substance that can be dangerous in large quantities. Was that the only sip, or the first of many? I think the inquiry was responsible.
- The mother used her child not only as a prop, but as a prop involving alcohol. I would be dubious about the judgment of such a parent.
- She said that she wanted a seven-year-old “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting” ??? Why? What else would she like to see a child experience in a controlled setting?
I think these were sufficient reason to check on the welfare of the children in that home, and to be concerned. Should she have been arrested? I don’t know what the children said, or what she told the police. The news reports make Denault sound like a fool, but being a stupid parent does not necessarily make one a dangerous parent. If this is all there is, the arrest is overkill. Continue reading
Comment of the Day: “Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father”
Jeff Gates, the father, photographer and writer whose essay in the Washington Post prompted my post here and a lively discussion thereafter, has been kind enough to contribute additional thoughts and clarifications in response. This is one of the really good things about the internet, and his willingness to enhance the discussion with additional perspective reveals good things about Jeff as well. His original article is here.
At the outset, I want to clarify something about my post that I kept intending to do but obviously did not, at least not well. The fact that the man who was suspicious of his photo-session with his daughter said later that he worked for Homeland Security didn’t figure into my analysis at all, and still doesn’t. I am concerned with the original encounter, and the question of whether this was excessive Big Brotherism clouds the issue, which I see, and saw as this: we should applaud and encourage proactive fellow citizens who have the courage and the concern to step into developing situation that they believe might involve one individual harming another. As the man needed no special authority to do that, I don’t care whether he was a federal agent or not; I thought it was pretty clear that this was not official action. Indeed, I think as official action, the man’s intervention was ham-handed and unprofessional.
Here is Jeff Gates’ Comment of the Day, on the post, “Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father.” Continue reading
Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father
“O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!”
—Robert Burns Jeff Gates, a writer and adoptive father, contributed a thought-provoking column in the Washington Post’s Outlook section this weekend, describing what seemed to him to be a traumatic experience at Cape May. It begins…
“After my family arrives on the Cape May ferry for our annual vacation to the Jersey Shore, I take pictures of our two daughters on the ferry’s deck as we leave the harbor. I’ve been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old. They are now 16 and 17. Each photo chronicles one year in the life of our family and our daughters’ growth into the beautiful young women they have become….On that first day of vacation, the sea was calm and the sky a brilliant blue. As I focused on the image in my camera’s viewfinder, the girls stood in their usual spot against the railing at the back of the boat. I was looking for just the right pose…Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”
He goes on:
“It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but then it hit me: He thought I might be exploiting the girls, taking questionable photos for one of those “Exotic Beauties Want to Meet You!” Web sites or something just as unseemly. When I explained to my daughters what he was talking about, they were understandably confused. I told the man I was their father. He quickly apologized and turned away. But that perfect moment was ruined, and our annual photo shoot was over.”
Many of us might laugh off the experience as a funny anecdote, but not Gates, and not his daughters. He is Caucasian and they are both of Chinese heritage, having been adopted as infants in China by Gates and his wife. He obsessed about the incident for a while, and worked up sufficient indignation to track down the man and confront him, saying “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.” Continue reading
Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunces: Penn State Students”
“Different Angle,” a college student and victim of child abuse, has, appropriately enough, a different angle on the Paterno/Penn State/ Sandusky scandal, and it provides useful and provocative perspective. I’ll let him have his say, as it is extraordinarily well argued, and save my comments for the end. I think he is compassionate, generous, thorough, thoughtful, and wrong. But first, here is his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Dunces: Penn State Students.”
“As a current college student, prior victim of child molestation, and generally reasonable person, I feel inclined to give my two cents. Having read the grand jury report personally, I am shaken. Unless you are familiar with the shame and humiliation of a situation like this–even if you are familiar–the sheer quantity of these attacks… beyond words. Had any Penn State staff understood the thoughts running through this man’s mind, this comment would’ve started “As a current toddler…” Anyone who knows that the sexual abuse of children is occurring and acts so callously as to downplay it and sweep it under the rug has no place in modern society. That’s as nicely as I can put that.
“With as much emotion and sympathy as I harbor for the young men who’ve endured through this, it pains me to read the bickering and finger-pointing I’ve encountered in comment threads like this. And while it is normally in my nature to grab my trident for a healthy round of devil’s advocate with the popular and most often intelligent opinion, I cannot help but side with Joe Paterno in this matter. I’m about as far removed from sports as a sociable college male can get; I will not rally for a few chants of WE ARE… at the end of this post. If you’re going to scrutinize the choices he made in reference to the 2002 incident, be thorough enough to consider this: He wasn’t thinking about slandering Sandusky, he wasn’t concerned about his career or standing in the community. The decision of if/when/to whom this should be reported wasn’t calculated with pro’s and con’s. Continue reading
Final Ethics Verdict on TSA’s Feel-Up Pat-down
I was flying this week, and the security procedures were smoother than ever. Now I am certain that my molestation at check points last year was unethical, and have sufficient evidence to conclude that it was based on government incompetence and willful disregard for my comfort, dignity, and rights. I am also wondering, more than ever, if the ardent, supposedly liberal defenders of the indefensible feel-up pat-downs have learned anything about the dangers of blind government obeisance and partisan loyalty. I hope so.
The saga so far: Continue reading
The Unethical Character Assassination of Albert Gore, Jr.
Not one but two celebrities have recently had their public image and reputation battered by the publishing of police reports that they had been accused of sexual misconduct in alleged incidents that could not be confirmed sufficiently for the police to bring charges. One was New York Mets ace pitcher Johan Santana, who was already battling uncharacteristic ineffectiveness on the mound. The other was former Vice-President Al Gore, who also has more than enough problems in his life: such as a shattered marriage, a reeling climate change policy campaign, and the lingering memory that he received the most votes in a Presidential election yet somehow never got to live in the White House. Santana’s reputation will survive if he recovers the location on his fast ball. Al Gore, however, is genuinely and seriously harmed by the claims of a masseuse who says that Gore attempted to turn her professional massage into a forced sexual encounter. Continue reading
Obama on Jobs: Spin, Deceit or Encouragement?
What constitutes dishonesty in politics, in leadership, for a U.S. President?
The Labor Department reported today that the nation added 431,000 jobs in May. The good news: it was the fifth consecutive month of job growth. The bad: private employment, the best indicator of real economic recovery, climbed just 41,000. It had increased by 218,000 in April, and economists had predicted private employment, to rise by at least 190,000 in May. Thus the low number was a setback for the economy’s recovery.
Not to hear the President describe it, however. “What these numbers do mean though is that we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “The economic policies that we’ve put in place are working.” Continue reading
A.M. Golden asks, in his Comment of the Day, “When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?” It is an issue also raised in the previous COTD, considering the mall Santa fired after someone complained about his Facebook post showing him as the Jolly Old Elf, but wearing a red MAGA cap. A.M. understands that this is not an idle question, but an important one that raises vital concerns about the erosion of core American values, the public’s belief in our founding documents, and the acceptance of the ethical standard of reciprocity.
Here is A.M.’s Comment of the Day on the post, “From The Ethicist: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us.”