Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Response-Ability

It’s bad when bad things happen. But it’s badder when there are no consequences. Think of all the good-old-boys acquitted after lynching someone, the Wall Street tycoons getting away with
financial murder, the NRA continuing to reap profits while innocent children are murdered in schools with assault weapons, wife-beaters keeping up their brutality because the women are afraid (understandably so) to speak out and report them, the police murdering innocent black men and going back to work the next day. The list is long.

When there are consequences, it’s not just that the bad guys get their just desserts. It’s that the bad actions get recognized by the culture as “this is not okay.” When nothing happens, it is equivalent to cultural approval of hurtful and harmful actions and attitudes. Silence is complicity, lame excuses (“Oh, I said that racist thing because of my sleep aid Ambien”) are affirming the action, denial (“I am not a racist”) and all such evasions gives a green light to those prone to keep the harm going.

So I hated hearing the story of the Starbucks eviction of two black men, but liked it that there was a recent training and was impressed by the questions the employees had to answer to help them dig deeper into the real issues behind the action. It feels right that Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein are being convicted in courts. It was a bold and brave move for ABC to fire Roseanne Barr for her racist twitter comment (see Ambien excuse and “I am not a racist” comment above). This is good news. It shows there still is some standard of common decency, some line that should not be crossed without consequences.

Of course, the denial, silence, excuses and evasions go on unchecked, especially at the highest level of the Presidency where it causes the most harm. What does the Toddler-in-Chief have to do to finally be held accountable? Tax evasion, Russian collusion (“alleged”), cheating on his wife with prostitutes, lying (about 2,000 plus times since entering the Oval Office), condoning neo-Nazis and white supremacists and on and on and on. Of course, he tweeted about the ABC CEO Bob Igor, calling him to task for not apologizing to Roseanne and wondering why Igor didn’t apologize to him for “all the HORRIBLE things he said about him (Trump) on ABC.”

But the Trump has never been known for nuanced thinking. Calling someone out for the actions they’ve committed and the words they’ve spoken is not equivalent to saying that “the Muslim brotherhood and the planet of Apes had a baby.” That’s an attack on a person’s religion and race independent of their character, words and actions.  That’s what Bob Igor’s action is responding to and rightfully so.

Do all these consequences mean that these bad thoughts and words and actions will stop? Of course not!! That takes a much deeper layer of education and reflection. But it will certainly make some people pause and it will affirm the cultural standard of what’s okay and what’s not. And without such consequences, we know for sure that such transgressions of common human decency will continue unchecked.

It’s a big thing in schools to teach our future citizens responsibility, but how can children learn that if the politicians in power, the media, the religious leaders, the courts, the CEO’s, don’t show them that they have the “ability to respond” to wrongdoing? In short, it's not just the cessation of bad things happening that's important, but how we respond to them. We can't control the bad things happening, much as we wish we could. But we can control how we react to them and keep the bar set high for what constitutes acceptable behavior. When we do, the cultural standard of ethics, morality and decency goes up a notch. And we are so far at the bottom of that yardstick that every notch is welcome.

Keep it going!


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