“Wait, Say That Again, Please…This Damn Little Girl I’m Walking With Keeps Distracting Me…”

Just because it is becoming an “old man shouts at cloud” cliche to point out that electronic devices are encouraging bad habits that will do unpredictable harm to society and human relations in the future doesn’t mean the observation isn’t true, or that it shouldn’t be heeded.

Yesterday, while walking Rugby in a glorious afternoon sun, I found my attention  diverted by the sound of a tiny child’s shout of glee and wonder.  A little girl, resplendent in a pink dress but not yet capable of coherent speech, had seen my happy Jack Russell from across the street and was pointing to him, laughing, and trying to get the attention of her mother as the two walked along in the opposite direction of where we were headed.  I also tried to get the woman’s notice, since my practice is to take Rugby to kids when they exhibit the reactions the little girl was running through.

The mother, however, was fully occupied talking on her cell phone. She never looked up, never saw me, never saw Rugby, or acknowledged her daughter. She just snatched the girl’s hand—the little girl had been previously hustling to keep up with her—and pulled her past us as the toddler looked longingly behind, and Rugby wagged his tail. Of course, she never interrupted the call, which I’m certain was crucial to world peace.

I see this all the time, more and more frequently: parents spending “quality time” with their children by having the kids walk along side of them (or behind), almost completely ignored, while they give most of their attention to chatting or texting to some distant friend or associate. The behavioreven bothers me when it is a dog rather than a child who being ignored, but dogs recover from neglect, emotional and otherwise, a lot better than children.

That woman, I thought, wouldn’t chat away on a phone call if she were walking with an adult companion, and then I instantly erased the idea: I have seen people doing that, too. Recently, waiting for my wife outside of the 7-11, I witnessed the depressing sight of  four teenagers walking along together, saying nothing, all with their eyed fastened to smartphones. Continue reading

Do Good Friends Let Friends Publish Garbage On Social Media? The Duty to Knock Down Irresponsible Opinions

“Stop quoting Maxine Waters!”

I just arrived at Virginia Beach Double Tree after a four hour plus drive in the dead of night. This gave amble time to obsess to the point of madness on Facebook post I saw from a friend. This is a smart, educated person; published in fact. Yet the post was (I am paraphrasing):

“I don’t understand Republicans. They must prefer Pence to Trump: why won’t the join Democrats in impeaching the orange bastard? I don’t get it.”

This post garnered many likes in the Facebook echo chamber, and several theories.

Now, this is not just an uninformed opinion. It is a dangerous opinion. It misinforms everyone who reads it and who has reason to trust and respect the writer. It is written in complete ignorance of the Constitution, and an irresponsible misinterpretation of what American democracy is.

I shouldn’t have to explain this further, but what the hell: if the Founders intended for our system to be a modified parliamentary arrangement where the public can try to elect a President but if Congress decides it prefers someone else, like the Vice-President, it can veto the election with a sufficient majority, then Madison, Mason et al. would have made that clear. Instead they made it clear that an elected President can only be impeached upon a guilty verdict in a Senate trial for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which means unequivocal, serious and substantive wrongdoing, usually criminal. Yet a frightening number of progressives, driven to fantasy by listening to irresponsible and incompetent elected demagogues like Maxine Waters, actually embrace an imaginary version of our government that, if real, would render democracy a cruel fraud. Continue reading

Nazi Memorabilia Ethics?

“ARRRGHHH!!!!”

I haven’t checked in on The Ethicist column in the New York Time Magazine in a while: the current resident, Kwame Anthony Appiah, is the real McCoy, unlike all of his predecessors, and his analysis of various queries from readers is usually valid and properly reasoned. This week’s featured issue is a strange one, however.

A Peter Hulit of Los Angeles wrote to ask what was the “ethical way” to deal with  a belt buckle from a Nazi uniform that was stored in his late father’s box of World War II memorabilia, collected during his service overseas. Hulit explained,

“I have kept it stashed in my desk. I’m now in my 60s and really don’t want it in my house..I have checked resale sites, and it does have some monetary value, but I do not want it to fall into hands that may use it symbolically for what my father fought against.”

I rate this question as more evidence of Nazi hysteria, one of the side-effect of the 2016 post election Ethics Train Wreck that includes the effort by the Left to slander opposition to Democrats, Clinton and Obama as nascent fascism. It is also a continuation of the historical air-brushing that Orwellian progressives seem to think will magically eliminate all evils from modern society.

World War II artifacts are history and are tools of acquiring knowledge. Knowledge is what those seeing German Nazi motivations in President Trump and his supporters sorely lack. There is no such thing as dangerous history. What is dangerous is to forget history, or to try to pretend that what happened did not.

Nor are objects cursed, or evil. People are evil, and history leaves evidence of evil deeds.  “I don’t want it in my house” smacks of superstition. It’s a belt buckle.

Hulit’s question seems to suck The Ethicist down some unethical holes that he should avoid, and usually does. For example, he writes, Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Guardian Journalist Mona Chalabi

But Mona, doesn't you correcting people who correct people's grammar and calling them purveyors of white privilege make you an ANTI-grammar snob?

But Mona, doesn’t you correcting people who correct people’s grammar and calling them purveyors of white privilege make you an ANTI-grammar snob?

This won’t take long. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Mona Chalabi, a  journalist for the British tabloid “The Guardian,” has asserted that correcting someone’s grammar (and presumably word use, sentence structure and other aspects of effective communication) is racist.

“Grammar snobs are patronizing, pretentious, and just plain wrong, ” she says. “It doesn’t take much to see the power imbalance when it comes to grammar snobbery. The people pointing out he mistakes are more likely to be older, wealthier, whiter, or just plain academic than the people they’re treating with condescension. All too often, it’s a way to silence people, and that’s particularly offensive when it’s someone who might already be struggling to speak up.”

Of course, correcting anyone to humiliate them, embarrass them, or make them hesitant to speak is cruel and wrong, as would be slapping them in the face and shouting, “Shut up, fool!”  Neither of these, or other examples of bad manners and disrespectful treatment, is the conduct that Chalabi is condemning as a demonstration of white privilege, however. (Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, frequently quips, “White privilege—is there anything it can’t do?”) No, she is saying that the simple act of one human being pointing out to another that they have made a verbal mistake that may embarrass the speaker in the future makes the person offering the correction a “grammar snob,” and is unethical.

To the contrary, correcting anyone’s mistakes in speaking, when done with discretion and proper attention to the speaker’s feelings, is a gift, an act of social kindness and even a social obligation. Expressing oneself in a manner that causes others to conclude, possibly correctly, that you do not know correct meanings, grammar, construction and etiquette is a serious life handicap and an obstacle to success. A listener may conclude that you are badly educated, do not read, do not listen to those who speak to you correctly sufficiently to learn from them, are ignorant, are not very bright, or worse, know how to communicate but don’t have enough respect for the rest of the world to make an effort to do so. Unlike concluding such unflattering things about a stranger or casual acquaintance based on an accent or verbal regionalism, making judgments based on poor communication skills is not prejudice or bias. Communication is a vital life skill and occupational tool. Every individual has an obligation to master these as early as possible, certainly by young adulthood. Believing one has done this and being wrong is a dangerous and potentially tragic situation. Continue reading