Ethics Hero: Keisha Thomas

Keisha Thomas

It is never too late to recognize an Ethics Hero, and thanks to a recent retrospective by the BBC, Ethics Alarms can salute Keisha Thomas, who 17 years ago exhibited both courage and other outstanding ethical values like kindness, sacrifice, responsibility, empathy and valor, by coming to the rescue of a man who would never have done the same for her.

In 1996, Keshia Thomas was just 18. The Ku Klux Klan held a rally in her home town, Ann Arbor, Michigan, then as now a college town and a bastion of liberalism. Predictably and as planned by the KKK, plenty of local protesters gathered to jeer the white robed marchers and to show their contempt.Thomas stood with a group of anti-KKK demonstrators on the other side of a security fence, as police in riot gear positioned themselves between the angry demonstrators and the Klan members. One of the anti-Klan counter-demonstrators spotted a white, middle-aged man with an SS tattoo on his arm and wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt  standing among the spectators.  “There’s a Klansman in the crowd!”  she shouted into her megaphone, and a group of protesters began to chase him, shouting threats and “Kill the Nazi!” He was knocked to the ground, and the group, now a mob, began kicking him and hitting him with wooden bases of their placards.

Thomas, an African-American girl still in high school, came to his rescue. She forced herself between the mob and their victim, fell to her knees, draped herself over him and became his shield, saving the stranger from serious injury. Continue reading

July 3: A Day To Honor Custer’s FIRST Stand, At Gettysburg… And Reflect On How Our Greatest Strengths Can Be Our Fatal Flaws

custercharge

I wrote this post two years ago, concerning my favorite neglected episode of the Civil War, when young George Armstrong Custer shocked Confederate J.E.B. Stuart with his unexpected and furious resistance to Stuart’s attempt at disrupting the Union flank while Gen. Meade’s army defended itself against Pickett’s Charge. As with the First Minnesota’s suicidal stand on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Custer’s crucial moment of truth has been largely neglected in the assembly of the battle’s heroes; I don’t think it has ever been depicted in a Civil War film, for example, though there is at least one book about it.

The incident is especially fascinating to me because of the its multiple ironies. Custer succeeded when his nation needed him most because of the exact same qualities that led him to doom at the Little Big Horn years later. Moreover, this man who for decades was wrongly celebrated in popular culture as an American hero for a shameful botched command that was the culmination of a series of genocidal atrocities actually was an American hero in an earlier, pivotal moment in our history, and almost nobody knows about it.

Thus it is that among the brave soldiers of the Blue and Gray who should be remembered on this 150th anniversary of the greatest battle ever fought on this continent is a figure whose reputation has sunk to the depths, a figure of derision and ridicule, a symbol of America’s mistreatment of its native population. Had George Armstrong Custer perished on July 3, 1863, he might well have become an iconic figure in Gettysburg history. The ethics verdict on a lifetime, however, is never settled until the final heartbeat. His story also commands us to realize this disturbing truth: whether we engage in admirable conduct or wrongful deeds is often less a consequence of our character than of the context in which that character is tested.

Here is the post, slightly lengthened:

July 3, 1863 was the date of Pickett’s Charge, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered a desperate Napoleonic advance against the Union line at Gettysburg in what has come to be a cautionary tale in human bravery and military hubris. The same day marked the zenith of the career of George Armstrong Custer, the head-strong, dashing cavalry officer who would later achieve both martyrdom and infamy as the unwitting architect of the massacre known as Custer’s Last Stand. Continue reading

Custer, Gettysburg, and the Seven Enabling Virtues

Sometimes the Enabling Virtues will save an army, and sometimes they’ll get you killed.

July 3, 1863 was the date of Pickett’s Charge, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered a desperate Napoleonic advance against the Union line at Gettysburg in what has come to be a cautionary tale in human bravery and military hubris. The same day marked the zenith of the career of George Armstrong Custer, the head-strong, dashing cavalry officer who would later achieve both martyrdom and infamy as the unwitting architect of the massacre known as Custer’s Last Stand.

Custer’s heroics on the decisive final day of the Battle of Gettysburg teach their own lessons, historical and ethical. Since the East Calvary Field battle has been thoroughly overshadowed by the tragedy of Pickett’s Charge, it is little known and seldom mentioned. Yet the truth is that the battle, the war, and the United States as we know it may well have been saved that day by none other than undisciplined, reckless George Armstrong Custer. Continue reading

Flashback: “What Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax Can Teach America”

The Late Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax

[Not many people were checking in on Ethics Alarms when I wrote this post in response to yet another example of bystanders choosing to do nothing when a human being was in peril. Some of the comments to the Alameda post, those making excuses for the 75 faint-hearted or apathetic citizens in that city who would rather gawk at a tragedy than try to stop it,  caused me to recall the essay, which explores related issues.  I wrote it, but I had nearly forgotten about the story; when I re-read it today, I got upset all over again.Here, for the second time, is “What Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax Can Teach America.”]

The one with the premium-grade ethics alarms bled to death on the sidewalk. The people who never had theirs installed at all took pictures. Is this the way it’s going to be? Continue reading

What Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax Can Teach America

The one with the premium-grade ethics alarms bled to death on the sidewalk. The people who never had them installed at all took pictures. Is this the way it’s going to be?

Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax was a Guatemalan immigrant who lived in Queens, New York. His life was a mess; he was destitute, ill, and had no job or likelihood of getting one. When he saw a knife-wielding man apparently assaulting a woman on the street two weeks ago, however, he knew what his ethical obligations were. He rescued her by intervening in the struggle, and got stabbed, badly, for his actions. The attacker ran off, and so did the woman, who didn’t check on Hugo after he fell, and  never contacted the police. She also neglected to say, “Thanks for saving my life.” Continue reading