© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense
There is a childhood story that I often tell that illustrates the point which I would like for you to entertain. I was in the third grade. I had just finished using the boy’s bathroom, when someone sprayed some water about as I was about to leave. I instinctively placed my hands near my eyes, but kept walking out of the entrance, which was right next to the entrance to the girl's bathroom.
Unfortunately, while my vision was obscured, I bumped into another young girl, who I did not know, and hit her in the face. Somehow the event morphed into a premeditated, conscious assault on this young lady, for whom I had some unspecified ill will. I was taken to Mr. Cundiff’s room, and he promptly (since corporal punishment was condoned in those days) abused my rear end, while saying that I should never hit another female.
Perhaps it was simply an opportunity which he seized to teach me one of life’s lessons. However, I realized at that point that truth, honesty, and doing the right thing do not always work for you every single time. The preconceptions of others can be powerful. However, I always believed that in the long term, those principles would place one in good stead. It’s simply the right thing to do.
Perhaps it is because of my third grade experience that I have always tried to withhold judgment about certain events, until I considered the facts. I also appreciate that, lacking personal knowledge, and without first hand information from witnesses, one runs the risk of making a bad call. Additionally, we all must keep in mind that there are many other factors which potentially come into play, with the two most obvious being bias and motivation.
A friend of mine in corporate America reminded me that in the corporate setting, someone “speaking up” is frequently just looking to torpedo their career. That led me to query, “Why do people think that an employee who is uncomfortable with what is going on around him or her, would be motivated to, and should, bring up a controversial subject, or challenge his superiors, during the course of his employment?” I mean think about it. What would you do? To not take that factor into consideration is just plain crazy. It’s science fiction.
Most folks are financially dependent on their jobs. Questioning the appropriateness of the conduct of one’s superiors is problematic, to say the least. Most observers of large, bureaucratic organizations will attest to the fact that as the size of the organization grows, and the importance of the issue increases, the likelihood of the truth becoming an afterthought, if not irrelevant, increases accordingly. I don’t care how much spin you try to put on it.
This was hammered home last night as I watched a relative of Pat Tillman (who entered military service, deferred a potentially lucrative pro football career, and was deployed to Iraq) discuss, on C-Span 2, Book TV, how the Pentagon and Secretary Rumsfeld handled the friendly fire death of Tillman. She made a comment which hit home with me. Paraphrasing, she said that this democratic concept is supposed to be a pretty good system, closer to perfection than most. She continued that Tillman believed in, and fought and died for, this system. She just wants to see the system work to the best of its capability. She lamented that when we have less than straightforward and candid interaction with those in power, it adversely affects the system, and further erodes our faith in the system. She concluded that the enlistees, who bought into the program, along with their families, deserve to be treated with respect. (And that is separate and apart from the intellectual honesty that we also expect from our leaders.)
We need whistleblowers in our society, regardless of whether they are telling the truth. They force us to periodically revisit the internal, behind the scenes operations of our governmental agencies, and keep them honest. Just the act of conducting an investigation serves a useful function.
You tell me, did Scott McClellan do the right thing? I don’t know. Obviously you folks with hard positions, either way, are privy to first hand and credible information which has not been made available to the consuming public. Please share it with the rest of us. I’m sure that there are many others who would appreciate being equally well-informed....
© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense
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