Thursday, November 10, 2011

where the least of us is harmed

Where the least of us is harmed, there are we also harmed: This a sentiment I share and it's a sentiment that can encourage my rage when, as is most common, it is not put into practice. Mostly, the little guy and the weak guy are consumed and forgotten by those in a position to help or succor. Blithely, it may be called "reality" or "the law of the jungle" ... but my response is this: We don't live in the jungle, dimwit! We have the capacity to dismiss or overlook or crush under foot, but it is a capacity we choose wittingly or unwittingly to exercise. I am ashamed of my own capacity to do the same and more ashamed when I do it ... but that doesn't mean I can't try to be less careless. I too am capable of a double-standard ... and I hate it.

But every once in a while, a good example of not-acceding, of not-overlooking, and of not sweeping the bodies under the carpet comes to light.

-- In Pennsylvania (as not at the Vatican), Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, a giant among college football coaches and a multi-million-dollar money maker for the university, was fired last night. He was fired not because he is presently charged with any of the pedophile sex crimes swirling around the football team staff, but because what he did not do reflects poorly on the integrity of the university. At least one small boy was allegedly raped by a football coach and the incident was reported but never acted upon. Paterno was alleged to be in the know. He passed the information on to his superior ... but not to the police. His ouster brought hoards of adoring fans into the streets: "We want Joe back!"

More than just Paterno, the board of trustees also fired the university president. Suddenly, small children (whatever the ulterior motives of the board) are given parity with those of great wealth and great fame. It is almost incomprehensible, given the human capacity for cover-up and excuses, that the board had the balls to do this. Not even the Roman Catholic Church -- a vastly wealthy and powerful and self-aggrandizing institution -- had the capacity and nerve to clean house in this way. Instead, they succumbed to their own version of  "We want Joe back!" We want our integrity without being reminded of that which eviscerates integrity. (Here is a pretty good description of the dynamics of sexual abuse within organizations ... about three minutes into the television segment.)

-- When is a vegetable not a vegetable? Researchers have uncovered the fact that not all patients described as being in a "vegetative state" are without consciousness.

-- For those old enough to remember and possibly care, former U.S. President Richard Nixon's grand jury testimony about the Watergate scandal has been unsealed. The former president, who was forced to leave office because, despite his assertions that "I am not a crook," was a crook always was a slippery customer, so who knows how revelatory the testimony will be. Current President Barack Obama was against unsealing the testimony ... too many of those who surrounded the crook Nixon are still alive.

-- Cable companies will offer cheaper internet services to those whose children qualify for the free lunch programs in schools. $9.95 per month. Such families will also be offered low-cost computers as part of the Federal Communications Commission's directive. I am glad that some governmental agency can do what business, when left to its own devices, will not... do something that is good for the nation.

-- And in the world of business, more employers are being more 'selective' when it comes to offering paid leave to new mothers. "Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than college graduates to be denied paid maternity benefits, the widest the gap has been over the past 50 years."

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