So Far As It Depends On You – Part 2

Part 1 of this piece concluded with the statement that the friend in question was no longer trustworthy. The piece further opined maintaining a relationship with someone who is untrustworthy is risky at best, foolish or dangerous at worst. And, the piece posed some questions a reader might have about this writer’s thinking in ending this relationship. Hopefully, Part 2 will answer those questions and explain the reasoning behind the dissolution of a thirty-something year relationship.

It is likely each person reading, “the individual in question was no longer trustworthy,” in Part 1, experienced a reaction to that phrase. Their reactions were based on personal experience and understanding of the term, trustworthy, and that is where problems arise with discussions of this nature. For instance, some might feel one is either trustworthy or not trustworthy. Oh, if it were only that simple.

If I asked you to define the term trustworthy in one word, what would you say? It is likely the first word that would pop into the minds of most people is honest. Another word that would come up fairly quickly might be dependable. Merriam-Webster online would agree with the dependable response, and Oxford Dictionaries would agree with the honest response. Oxford throws in truthful, and Merriam-Webster adds worthy of trust. To some, the distinction between the two definitions may be nonexistent or moot.  In the real world however, the differences may be significant.

For example, consider Dennis the Menace. Dennis is, of course, a comic character, but comics such as Dennis the Menace illustrate the realities of life in a whimsical way that can often be more on point than an Oxford University lecturer attempting to explain the nuances of the definitions mentioned above.

Few people, when confronted with someone like Dennis, would consider that person trustworthy. Yet, Dennis fits the definitions of the word to a tee. He is honest and truthful. In fact, he is so honest and truthful, he is often an embarrassment to his parents. He is also dependable. In fact, as his parents and his long-suffering neighbor know, he can be depended upon to create chaos and elevated blood pressures on a regular basis. In absolute terms then, he is trustworthy. Regrettably, he is trustworthy in a very negative sense. So you ask, what does Dennis the Menace have to do with the topic at hand?

Social media tends to bring out the Dennis in many of those who use it. A cartoon character frustrating his parents and disrupting the lives of neighbors and friends is apparently amusing. At least, it is amusing enough to keep the comic strip alive for more than sixty years. Such behavior may not be as amusing in other venues such as social media. The question then becomes when does cartoonish or reactive behavior cross the line from disappointing to unacceptable?

The answer is of course subjective. One may put up with a goodly amount of strange behavior to keep peace with a neighbor. The same may be true for a lifelong friend or family member. Still, at some point, it is possible for a friend or relative’s behavior to be so far outside the realm something must be done about it.

To this writer, the Bible offers some insight into this issue. Whether one believes the Bible is the inspired word of God, or simply a collection of morality plays, makes little difference. It contains many good bits of wisdom within its pages, and one seems to give some good advice on the issue at hand. In the Book of Romans Paul writes the following, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (12:18, ESV)

It is dangerous to pull one verse out of the Bible to make a point. Many will argue, taking a verse out of context is wrong, and may misrepresent the intended message. Others will say, variations in translations mean one must look much further than just one translation, a handful of sermons, or a select group of commentaries. All of those concerns are valid, but this verse can stand on its own.1

One goal of this piece was to develop a process or strategy for helping someone know when it was no longer possible to live at peace with a particular individual. In the face to face world, there are many thoughts on this issue. It seems safe to say that in most cases an advisor, counselor, or therapist would agree there is a point beyond which one is not expected to continue a relationship. Usually, that point is reached when a person’s psychological or physical well-being is threatened by continuing the relationship.

It might be possible to apply the face to face thoughts and guidelines concerning conflict resolution to social media. It might be possible, but it seems unlikely. If someone continues a social media relationship that is causing them psychological distress, or poses even a remote threat of injury, they need more help than a blog or essay can provide.2 For everyone else, here are some suggestions.

First, as noted in Part 1, the person needs to be confronted. Given the nature of this discussion, it does not seem advisable to respond tit-for-tat. That is, if someone posts a rant including objectionable terms, pejorative remarks, or ad hominem attacks, it is inappropriate to respond in kind. It would be doubly wrong to if the response is public, but even a private response should be reasoned. Still, some response is appropriate.  If the person attacked another of one’s followers or contacts a response is crucial.

Second, the question becomes what does one do if the confrontation does not work? There are a range of possible strategies from a more direct response via social media to a face to face meeting of some sort. One this writer particularly likes is an old school approach of sending a letter. Even in today’s world, taking the time to write a letter and the fact the other party can hold it in his or her hand is attention-getting. The drawback, of course, is the delay between the incident and the letter being read.

Third, what does one do if steps one and two do not bring about the desired results? Depending on the level of the relationship this step could involve anything from another heartfelt and thoughtful letter to some form of intervention involving others who have a relationship with the person. If going to this length does not work, it is likely nothing short of divine intervention will make any difference.

Some will think this piece seems to be a great deal of thought, advice, opinion, or folderol to solve a relatively simple problem. In the world of instant gratification, hookups, and I-don’t-have-time-for-this-nonsense, the idea of doing anything other than simply moving on immediately is alien. If that is one’s position, so be it. However, this is also the time of understanding, seeing things from another’s perspective, and alleged tolerance.

Many times, a person will be consciously or unconsciously testing the waters so to speak when he or she does something offensive. An off-color joke, if there is such a thing in 2017, an inappropriate reference to someone, or an offensive comment is often made to see how others respond. Failing to respond is in and of itself a response.  One that the other party can justifiably assume is positive. Therefore, unless one is okay with the other’s behavior, a more substantive response is essential.

Engaging in the process outlined above opens the door to saving a relationship or helping another see they are acting inappropriately. Of course, it could also open the door to the possibility that the other person is on point, and you or I need to take another look at how we deal with disagreements or misunderstandings. Either way, there is some value in attempting to deal with conflict in a systematic and reasoned manner.

Back to the Bible verse above.  Whether one believes it is God’s word or some human’s attempt at wisdom, there is sage advice in that passage.  We should live at peace with others, as much as it is humanly possible.  That does not mean we must put up with cartoonish, offensive, possibly harmful behavior.

1. It is in middle of a passage laying out various forms of acceptable Christian behavior, but none change the meaning. One should do the best one can to live at peace with others.
2. I am not dumping the physical threat issue, there is simply not time to address it here. Unless the social media bully lives close by, there should be time, in most cases, to get some advice from reliable sources about how to avoid a physical confrontation.

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Civility, Ethics, Manners, social media | Tagged , , , , , ,

So Far As It Depends On You – Part 1

Ever wondered what to do when one of your social media friends, followers, or connections shares something cringe worthy? Ever thought about disconnecting because of the discourse within your social media world? Ever spend more time deleting, unfollowing, blocking, or trying to refocus than you spend catching up with friends and acquaintances? Ever wondered what the difference is between friends and acquaintances in the age of social media?

Okay! That last one may be a bit of a non sequitur. Some of us likely wonder about the difference between friends and acquaintances in the real world, not just the world wide web. That may be a topic for a future essay, but today I want to focus on the first few questions.

If you have never experienced any problems with your social media presence, this piece is probably not for you. For the other 99.9999 percent of people on social media, hang on for a bit and see if this makes sense.

For the record, this piece was actually started several months ago. It has not been finished because it was, until recently, primarily an intellectual exercise. Two social media connections, who happen to be real life friends, started me down the path of wondering, when is enough enough, or when is too much too much?

One is supposedly retired.  In his case, that means he no longer charges for consulting and mentoring. The other is a full-time pastor.  He may occasionally dream of retirement after a particularly difficult week at church, but he does his best to minister to his flock.

These guys are regularly engaged in online discussions.  In more than a few cases, the discussions caused me to wonder why they maintained contact with some of their “friends.”  One case even caused me to ask the pastor how he knew someone in his network.  His response was he did not know the person but accepted friend requests from anyone.  His reasoning was that he hoped he might share or say something that would help a believer, seeker or skeptic.  In the case of my life coaching friend, the question was a bit more pointed.

I asked him, “Why do you put up with that guy?” Essentially, his response was he believes, as does this writer, that dialogue is important.  If we shut people out of the dialogue or refuse to discuss issues, things will just continue to move closer to anarchy.  He did agree there might be limits beyond which dialogue was no longer useful.

Even as an intellectual exercise, this seemed to be something worth reviewing. Of course, one’s level of interest and inspiration ratchets up a few notches when it becomes a bit more personal. That is the reason this piece is actually being written.

Both An Old Cops Place and An Old Sinners Place stopped allowing comments on blogs a couple of years ago. Instead, a link is provided to allow email comments and questions.  these are answered or acknowledged as quickly as possible. In some cases, they even inspire blog posts.

The reason for making that change was an exchange with what one might call a troll.  Personally, I believe he was an operative for a particular group pushing a particular agenda.  Whatever the reality, the individual made it clear allowing open comments on posts is a recipe for disaster if one does not have time to monitor such activity in real time. Even then, it might be a waste of time to respond to what is obviously someone else’s talking points. It is really hard to dialogue with someone working from a script.

Making the decision to stop taking comments directly through WordPress on blogs was not easy. No writer wants his or her work to be ignored, but building interest or readership through controversy or direct confrontation is of little interest to this writer. Accordingly, after much thought and prayer, the feedback mechanism was changed.

The decision was made a bit easier because blog posts are shared on personal social media sites.  Dialogue with friends or social media acquaintances still occur, but random comments from people trying to pirate one’s blog can be controlled. Now an issue has arisen on one of those sites with an old friend who is also a social media friend.

This is not the first time this particular friend and follower has posted something that went against the grain to some degree. That is the price one pays to have a diverse group of real world and social media friends. Differences of opinions arise, and in some cases people say things that might be uncomfortable for others.

Usually, these matters can be dealt with through phone calls, messaging, emails, or meeting for a cup of coffee. Anyone having a friend with whom they cannot have a frank discussion in some manner needs to reconsider the friendship, if that is what it is. The question then becomes, how many off the record conversations or cups of coffee are too many? Since you are reading this, the incident prompting this essay hit the one too many mark.

In some ways, the matter started innocently enough. Something was shared, and this individual shared something similar. Another person chimed in with a post that could have been taken the wrong way, in today’s world. It could have been considered a trigger or even a bit of micro-aggression, if one was inclined to look at it in that way. It was immediately followed up with a similar comment.  Then, the person in question commented that the remarks were judgmental, inappropriate and uncivil.

One party attempted to explain what they meant. The offended party would have none of it. As owner of that page, this writer interceded with a comment based on experience with issues such as this, and the offended party responded rather tersely one was welcome to his or her opinion, but opined there were too many uncivil comments coming from certain classes of people on social media today.

The sadly interesting part of this little dialogue was the offended party assumed the two individuals causing the offense were conservatives, possibly right-wing bigots. At least his closing remarks referenced two such groups, just before he attempted to cut off any further discussion.

In reality, one of the people he criticized is likely as liberal politically as he is. She is certainly on the same page with a number of positions he holds.  Yet, as people are sometimes wont to do, he struck out based on one comment that triggered something in him.

I thought long and hard about how to deal with the matter. Normally, if there were hope of smoothing some ruffled feathers I might have sent a conciliatory message of some sort. I also considered sending a less than conciliatory admonition calling attention to the fact that he regularly shared items on his Facebook page that many people would find offensive or uncivil. In fact, it is clear he recognizes the questionable nature of the items.  When he shares such posts or memes, he includes disclaimers such as, “Don’t shoot the messenger,” or “I’m just passing this along.”

In the end, the decision was made to cut ties with him. The decision was not made lightly, and not without a good deal of internal debate. We have known each other for more than thirty years. We worked together, volunteered together, broke bread together, and attended church together over the years. We’ve also disagreed occasionally, and I am certain we have both felt at times the other one was more than a little off base. So, one might ask, why cut ties now?

The short answer to that question is simple. The individual in question was no longer trustworthy, and maintaining a relationship was not beneficial to either of us. This is said based on many years of experience in crisis intervention, mediation, and what is now called life coaching. If a person is not trustworthy, any attempt to maintain a relationship with that individual is risky at best, foolish or dangerous at worst.

If you are still reading at this point, you likely had one of several reactions to this piece and the last paragraph. You might be thinking, what took you so long to dump this yahoo? Or, you might be thinking, that’s not very Christian of you. A third option might be the question, what gives you the right to judge this person?

Those are all good questions.  Questions I hope to answer in Part II of this analysis.  Until then, feel free to email your thoughts on what you’ve read to this point.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stupid is as stupid does!

As one of the few people in the world who found Forrest Gump to be, dare I say it, a bit stupid, the title of this piece may seem ironic. Yet, the world in which we live seems to demand a little feedback of this nature occasionally. To make the point of this piece, OneOldCop could simply focus on the sniveling little politico who is mayor of Chicago.  That would be possible, but he is more of a symptom than a problem. Still, his actions, the comments of a Democrat talking-head, and the words of a Republican lawmaker or two sparked this piece.

Whether one agrees with the label sanctuary city, takes a side in the debate surrounding it, or could care less about the uproar, the situation deserves discussion. Accordingly, here we go.

First, let’s tackle the outrageous claim that police officers taking actions to help identify illegal immigrants involved in criminal activity will alienate socially responsible undocumented immigrants. Okay, point number one! If the phrase socially responsible undocumented immigrant is not an oxymoron, there is no such thing. If one is socially responsible, one does not violate the laws of the country in which one wishes to be socially responsible. That means one emigrates legally and is not undocumented!

Point number two. There is very little cooperation with the police within these communities, no matter what the status of the residents. Just look back to the 1970s. Black communities in those days had zero, that is no, absolutely not one, illegal or undocumented immigrants residing there. Everyone, from law-abiding citizen to hardcore criminal, was a legal, likely native-born citizen of the United States. Do you have any idea how much cooperation OneOldCop and his colleagues received from those documented socially responsible citizens? We received nada, not one scintilla, that is zilch when it came to cooperation.

It is not a matter of legal versus illegal. It is not a matter of law-abiding versus criminal. It is a matter of us versus them. Human beings are highly intelligent, theoretically, herd beasts or pack animals. We want to be with our own kind, and we do not trust THOSE PEOPLE. In the case of police officers and other authorities, they are always those people, and about the only time someone in a minority, socioeconomically challenged or immigrant neighborhood cooperates with the police is when fear or anger overcomes their abhorrence of helping “the man.”

That does not mean people in neighborhoods such as the ones mentioned above do not silently applaud when the police take some predator off the streets. They do, but they cannot admit it because they cannot be certain who around them are happy with the police doing their job.

Okay, on to another sore spot. Mitch McConnell, the so-called Majority Leader of the United States Senate, was criticizing “the president and others” for having unrealistic expectations of the legislative process. In his remarks, Senator McConnell made the comment that President Trump had never held “this job” before, and did not understand it.

This job? There is the problem. A JOB is what someone does to make a living. It may or may not be something one loves, but it is the way people have made a living for most of the time humans have roamed this earth. Whether one believes in evolution or creation, ancient men and women had jobs. In some cases the job was simply digging for grubs, begging at the side of the road, or building huts, but they had jobs. Being an elected official in this country was never meant to be a job. Jobs actually produce something other than billions of pages of laws, regulations, and nonsense.

Being an elected official in this country was meant to be an act of service. Unfortunately, people such as Addison Mitchell McConnell, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and all the others who hold the JOB of an elected official or master legislator need to take remedial courses in American History and Politics. Of course, the politicians are not solely to blame for the fiasco of modern-day politics. We the people must accept some of the blame.

When the electorate, that is all adult U.S. citizens, abdicated our responsibilities as citizens, voters, and socially responsible people something had to fill the vacuum. Enter the bureaucracy and ruling class, American style.

It started innocently enough. Early in the republic, most legislative jobs were seen as public service. Few entered into politics as a career. They ran for office, did their time, and returned to their families and jobs. Of course, there was a need for support staff and other more or less permanent positions over the years. Thus, the bureaucracy began to grow. Funding those jobs, which turned into career positions required more and more money from the states. We were well on our way down the slippery slope at that point.

Then came the depression and FDR. Now real people did not have jobs and elected officials saw an opportunity. More money was needed to make certain people had something to do. New programs were developed that gave people jobs. More money was needed, and more full-time government employees were needed to manage the programs that were popping into existence like weeds after a spring shower. Then we hit the steep portion of the slippery slope.

The career politicians realized there were other needs that they wanted to address. In most cases, the need was to keep them employed and the best way to do that was to find a way to make the electorate, our ancestors, pay for more things. The answer was Federal Grants!

Yes, the most stupid thing we the people allowed Washington to do was to allow the feds to establish the grant system.1 When we sat idly by and let Washington tax us so they could turn around and give us our tax money back, less management fees, in the form of grants they controlled.2

Today, Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago are preparing to spend tens of thousands of tax dollars to sue the federal government. The federal government will likely spend millions in tax dollars to maintain its authority to spend tax dollars as it sees fit. We the people will sit back, take a side or ignore the situation, thinking it’s only tax dollars being spent to determine how tax dollars are spent. Again, stupid is as stupid does.

Anyone who looks at this and thinks its only tax dollar is suicidal as well as stupid. The only money the federal government has, tax dollars, is money it takes from people who work for a living or the organizations for which they work. Tax dollars are dollars we paid in taxes that the government uses to fund operations, returning a pittance to states, towns, cities, individuals and some organizations as federal grants.

Maybe Forrest Gump was a better movie than I realized. It certainly had one thing right.

1. Mayor Emanuel’s comments and actions related to federal grants are part of the inspiration for this piece. He wants the federal gravy train to his city to continue, in spite of the fact he and his predecessors have wasted the money they were given in the past.

2. See Paved With Good Intentions: Interstate Highways for more on this issue.

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Uncategorized

Monkey Business

It seems every pundit, news source, or so-called authority of any kind is quoting polls, surveys, or statistics these days. Anyone with knowledge of polls, surveys and statistics likely laughs themselves silly or grinds their teeth until their head hurts when one source or another speaks of the latest survey.

Survey and polling data have always been a bit suspect. Today, such data is not only suspect, much of it has the validity of all the stories claiming one city in the U. S. or another is now governed by Sharia law. Robocalling, online polls, and other modern data gathering strategies are making a mockery of these processes. In fact, after the U. S. Presidential election of 2016 many were saying polls and surveys in the political arena might be a thing of the past. As we have seen, that is not the case.

Almost every day someone is touting a new poll or survey in the media. News outlets and opinion shows constantly quote some statistic drawn from a poll or survey. One will claim a special election is too close to call. Another may claim the majority of voters disagree with this or that particular plan or proposal. Still, others opine that Republicans or Democrats, depending on the issue, feel the country is on the right track, headed for Armageddon, or on the verge of societal collapse.

Given the foregoing, one must wonder, what is going on? Why do pollsters, even those with excellent track records, find their predictions to be less reliable? Additionally, why do polls allegedly researching similar issues make predictions that seem so at odds? Polling and survey data seem to be going the way of weather forecasts which may have multiple predictions depending on the computer model used.

Several think pieces over the last few years concerning the issue of polling related to elections blame a number of factors. Most notably, the experts in this area believe the shift from traditional means of communication to mobile phones and the internet makes it more difficult to conduct polls. Not only is it more difficult to find respondents willing to answer questions, the very means of communication used can skew results.1

Without a doubt, mobile phones, social media, and online surveys are part of the problem. They are not the only problem however. Professional pollsters and researchers are running into other problems which they may or may not acknowledge. One is the question of honesty.

Traditionally, the thinking has been that a person taking part in an anonymous survey would answer questions truthfully. The belief was that people would not lie if their answer would not directly effect them. Therefore, in response to the statement, “Running a large successful business enterprise would help a person be a more effective president,” a participant would agree or disagree honestly. That is likely not the case today, if it ever was.

It is especially problematic today because people simply do not trust as they did in the past. Many believe people responding to election polling in the 2016 presidential race lied when asked about their preference for president. The thought was they were afraid to admit they were going to vote for Donald Trump because of what people might think of them. This implies they were concerned about being judged, and they did not believe their responses would be anonymous.

Anonymity may have been an issue. It is likely not the only issue. There is also reason to believe respondents will lie for less obvious reasons. Many students for example seem willing to lie about any number of issues when asked to respond to polls or surveys.

And, in the world of online communication, faulty memories or outright lies seems to be a fact of life. Why that is so may be open to debate, but research in which OneOldCop was involved some years ago indicated the perceived anonymity factor of online communication led people to act in ways they would never act in person. Still, there is a new reason to find polling and survey data problematic.

Do it yourself survey tools seem to be all the rage these days. In case you were not aware of it, a number of companies allow you, this writer, or your eccentric Aunt Edna to formulate a survey, distribute it, and then publish the results online. One can do this, without any training in data collection, understanding of research methods, or oversight. To say this is a bit concerning is an understatement.

One hopes those who poll professionally such as some nationally known organizations touting themselves as “nonpartisan think tanks” hold themselves to some professional standard. The hope would be they would not conduct surveys or polls using leading questions, or publish results designed to mislead someone about the data collected. Unfortunately, the DIY survey business allows anyone to develop a survey or poll, intentionally or unintentionally, that will result in misleading results.

That is why this writer cringes when a talking head on a morning show announces, “Coming up after the break, our latest Survey Master poll! Find out whom Americans will vote for in 2020!”

1. Interested in the expert commentary on this issue, search “the problem with polling,” or “Cliff Zukin.”

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Daily Life, Journalism, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics, social media | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A Question of Loyalty

OneOldCop started several pieces concerning former director of the FBI, James Comey. None were completed because it seemed writing anything definitive about him would be the equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle. One moment he appeared to be the well-intentioned if somewhat befuddled public servant caught in a difficult situation. The next he sounded like a snake-oil salesman pushing a product everyone knew was bogus. Then he came across as a grandstanding weasel looking to condemn someone while claiming there was not enough evidence to condemn them.

Comey’s public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee did little to change OneOldCop’s impression of him. At times he appeared to be an earnest professional caught in a bad situation. Then he would sound like an attention seeking megalomaniac, and the next minute a self-deprecating and humble public servant. Of course, that is one man’s impressions, and everyone who saw or heard him speak or testify has their own feeling about him.

The foregoing aside, some of what Mr. Comey said, wrote, or gave to a friend to pass on to the press deserves a bit of analysis. It does not necessarily deserve analysis because Comey said it. Rather, it deserves analysis because of the way he and others reacted to it.

Comey alleges President Trump asked him for loyalty. Comey’s reaction to the alleged request, and the reaction of others, seems to illustrate a misunderstanding of what the word means. Either that, or it speaks volumes to the lack of moral character in society today. From Speaker of the House Ryan to almost any talking-head one can think of the idea of the president allegedly expressing a desire for loyalty from a subordinate seems to reek of corruption.

Speaker Ryan and many others seem to confuse the word loyalty with the word fealty. Perhaps that is an honest mistake, or it may be because they assume asking someone for loyalty is asking someone to swear a an oath of fealty. Just for clarification, Merriam-Webster on-line states,1FEALTY implies a fidelity acknowledged by the individual and as compelling as a sworn vow.” LOYALTY, on the other hand, “implies a faithfulness that is steadfast in the face of any temptation to renounce, desert, or betray.”

The definitions above seem crystal clear to this writer. Unfortunately, the reactions of Speaker Ryan and others indicate many, especially in Washington and the media, find them unclear. Accordingly, consider the following.

Command level positions in any organization normally include the authority to choose those who serve in high level and important positions. In some cases, that authority may be clear, concise, and final. In other cases, it may require a bit of cooperation or support from others, but a president, CEO, chief of police, or commanding general needs to be able to trust top level subordinates.

In other words, the leadership of any organization, especially the upper most tiers, need to be loyal to the leader. That does not mean, they must unthinkingly obey every order or request made of them. Rather, as the definition above states, they must be steadfast in the face of any temptation to renounce, desert, of betray.

Being steadfast in one’s support of the leader does not automatically mean one will follow every order without question. Even in the military one has the right to question a superior’s order, and refuse to obey it if it is illegal.

If the last couple of paragraphs don’t make my point clear, a comment made by Christopher Wray during his confirmation hearing for Comey’s old position should. Mr. Wray was asked how he would handle a situation in which the president wanted to do something illegal or unethical. Mr. Wray’s answer was clear and unequivocal, and it is the answer many dedicated professionals would give in that situation.

Mr. Wray said he would first try to talk the president out of taking the action. If he was unable to convince the president it was a mistake, he would resign.

It appears Comey did not feel he was being asked to do anything illegal or unethical. Either that, or he does not have the backbone Mr. Wray claims to have. Mr. Comey allegedly told the president he would give him “honest loyalty,” and the president accepted it.

It is impossible to know if Mr. Wray would actually resign before he agreed to something he knew was wrong. As someone who has faced such a situation, OneOldCop knows it is much easier to talk bravely than to actually standup under pressure.

Telling someone with the power to fire you or demand your resignation you will not obey or agree with them is uncomfortable to say the least. Still, it is better than living in shame and under the control of someone who would use their power in that manner.

If President Trump asked then Director Comey to pledge fealty to him, no matter what he called it, Comey should have resigned immediately. In fact, regardless of what the president meant, if Comey thought that is what the president was asking, Comey should have done more than tell the Attorney General not to leave him alone with the president again.

The president committed no crime or error by asking Comey to be loyal. Loyalty would simply mean standing by him if he was attacked unfairly. Loyalty would simply mean defending him if he was doing something that was right, but unpopular. Loyalty would simply mean not trying to undermine him when he made decisions which were legal and appropriate, but with which you did not agree.

Comey’s response to the president and his actions after that meeting, indicate loyalty is not one of his virtues. Of course, it could be he, like others it seems, does not understand loyalty.

  1. See Synonym Discussion section.

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Civility, Ethics, Morality, Politics | Tagged , , , , , ,

Tweet This!

For the record, OneOldCop never completely agreed with those who believed a successful business person would automatically be a good choice for President of the United States.  The idea that a Ross Perot, a Donald Trump, a Bill Gates or an Oprah Winfrey could be more successful in the White House, or a governor’s mansion for that matter, than a seasoned politician is suspect, if not naive. It is possible a successful private sector leader could be an effective president or governor, but running a business is different from running a governmental entity, as President Trump is finding out.

Admittedly, in the early days of the republic, presidents and other elected officials came from what one might call the private sector or business world. They came from that background because politics was not a profession. Elected office was initially a form of service, not a career. That has not been the case for decades.

With that said, this piece is not about how successful or effective President Trump will or will not be. He may turn out to be a successful president, or he may turn out to be the Republican Jimmy Carter. However his presidency turns out. He is changing the game.

Traditionally high-ranking public figures have been careful about responding to bogus, unjustified or slanderous attacks. They might issue a lukewarm denial, or in extreme cases a strongly worded defense of their actions. Certainly there were some cases many people remember such as “I am not a crook,” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Still for the most part, responses to serious accusations, including totally false ones are limited and measured.

One reason for this hesitancy is the high standard of proof needed if a public figure wishes to challenge slanderous or defamatory comments legally. A public figure; politician, movie star, sports figure, or Kardashian; must prove the person making the comment knew it was untrue and made or published it for malicious reasons. On the other hand, if one average citizen makes defamatory comments about another, the injured party might only need to prove the comment was untrue and damaging.1

A second reason public figures normally ignore verbal and written attacks is the cure may be worse than the disease. For example, consider the following:

Several decades ago a U. S. Attorney was publicly accused of corruption and professional misconduct by a local newspaper. The attorney filed suit against the newspaper, eventually winning a cash settlement. He was able to show the newspaper published the allegations against him, knowing they were false, in an attempt to harm his career and political future.

One would think the attorney would be on cloud nine. He had a victory.  He proved his case.  He received a cash settlement from the paper.  He had been cleared of any wrong doing in court.  The reality was his victory in court was a classic example of winning the battle and losing the war.

Each time he took action to disprove the accusations, the newspaper was legally able to rerun them as part of the story that he was defending himself. The paper was legally able to publish the false accusations at least four times while the attorney was trying to defend himself. By the time the attorney proved his case and the paper paid the judgment against him, he was ruined politically and professionally.

A similar situation occurred a few years ago with a District Attorney in New York. In this case, another politician accused the attorney of obstruction of justice. The attorney fought back publicly and legally, winning a judgment against the local sheriff of all people. However, as with the case of the U. S. Attorney many years ago, this attorney’s political career was over.

Based on cases such as these, public figures are advised to minimize their response in situations of this nature. They are told to roll with the punches, and not engage in combat with the media. Obviously, Donald Trump does not believe in that strategy.

It is likely no one in the president’s family or administration is happy with his penchant for hitting back at critics through social media or verbal assaults. Under normal circumstances, such behavior is a classic mode of political suicide. For example, his social media slap at the couple who anchor a morning cable news show resulted in a new allegation against him, and a rehash of other questionable comments. Additionally, his behavior has the other side of the aisle calling for legislative action to remove him from office due to mental instability.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If President Trump continues to attack those who attack him, he runs the risk of jeopardizing his agenda and his reelection. The problem is that traditional political wisdom may be wrong in the current situation.

Many think the media is determined to attack him for anything he does.  Given the nature of the political turmoil in the country at the moment, those who feel that way may have a point.  Whether they or correct or not is in some ways not the question.  The question now is, what happens if the president’s strategy fails?

President Trump, by designs or temperament, has engaged in a battle with the news media in all its various forms.  If he is able to prevail in this contest, he has set a new tone for politicians in the future.  The old adage about not picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel will be a quaint saying from a bygone era.  The president will have proved that in the age of the internet and social media, the media establishment is no longer invincible.  If he loses, it is likely the future of politics and policy in the United States will be dictated by the media for the foreseeable future.

1.The issue is a bit more complex than one can explain in a paragraph, and OneOldCop is not a lawyer. For a better understanding of the issue, there are multiple online sources one can access for additional information.

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Ethics, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics | Tagged , , , , ,

Words Matter!

Many people in OneOldCop’s generation grew up hearing,“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This, or some variation of it, was a standard response from parents and others when a child came home crying or upset because someone called them a name or used a hurtful term to refer to the child.

Today, we are much more aware of the power words have to hurt someone. Either that or the failure of parents to teach their children the little saying above has created several generations of thin-skinned crybabies. Whatever the reality, there is a problem with the old adage. A problem that has nothing to do with the fact young people today often need safe spaces and Play-Doh to deal with the world.

Certainly, each of us has a choice about how to respond when assaulted with thoughtless words or outright verbal abuse. We can, as in times past, simply try to ignore it, or if that is not possible, there are places one can seek help to deal with the consequences of such taunting or bullying. The problem arises when one becomes the victim of an assault or other crime, because of the thoughtless words of others.

Someone trying to create an adage similar to the sticks and stones saying of old would face a problem today. Today, the adage might need to go something like this, “Stick, stones, baseball bats, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and other weapons may hurt me, and the hateful words of others may kill me!”

In 1992, OneOldCop published an article in Law and Order discussing the danger inherent in the way we speak of others. The piece targeted the law enforcement community, but the principles upon which it was based apply to everyone.1

The basic principle is simple. The use of certain words to describe a person, a person’s actions, or a group of people can lead to a form of conditioning in the minds of those using or hearing the words. This concept is nothing new, but it has been traditionally attached to issues of racism and discrimination.

There is little doubt that a child raised in a home, or general environment, where one group of people is referred to in less than flattering ways will learn to identify them the same way. Race, gender and other characteristics normally identified with racism and discrimination have no bearing on the matter.

Take the centuries old conflict in Ireland. There people groups that have lived on the same island for centuries, have turned the labels Protestant and Catholic into hate speech. The same can be true in other cultures where labels such as Sunni and Shia carry distasteful connotations similar to words used to describe people of color in the United States in times past.

In 1992 police trainers, executives and administrators were trying to find ways to change the language of police officers so they would see the people they handled as human beings instead of some form of subhuman life. While some may feel the efforts of police leadership did not bear fruit, that is simply not true. The vast majority of police officers are professional and objective. The problem now is the very same people who were trying to control cops during the turbulence of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s are the ones who need to watch their language.

As this is being written, pundits and politicians continue to talk of political rhetoric. They want the political rhetoric toned down because it is driving people over the edge. It is true, the rhetoric is out of control, but the reason it is out of control is the way words are being used in the rhetorical outbursts.

The fellow who spent months plotting to kill Republican Congressmen did not take his actions because of political rhetoric. He armed himself and hunted down members of Congress because the words used to describe these officials were influencing him the way words can influence a police officer.

Police officers who mistreat or overreact to the people with whom they deal do so because they do not see them as people. They see them as scumbags, pukes or some other colorful term that dehumanizes them. Now, their bosses, the politicians who want to lead the country or the local government, engage in the same name calling.

The man who attempted to kill multiple Congressmen in Virginia was not making a political statement. He was hunting down those deplorable, Republican haters who were ruining his country. The problem is he did not dream up those ideas on own. They were shouted from the campaign platforms of his party, and are still being spouted by talking heads and political hacks.

Political rhetoric can be uplifting, depressing or enraging. Yet, political rhetoric does not bring an otherwise sane man to a ball field in Virginia where he intends to assassinate elected officials. Labeling is what brings someone to commit such an act. Those were not elected officials he was attempting to kill. They were Deplorables. They were haters. They were crooks who were stealing money from old people and children. They were the corrupt capitalists standing in the way of the Leftist dream of socialized medicine and a guaranteed income.

Words, and the way they are used, matter. Everyone with a public platform needs to remember that, no matter which side of the aisle they inhabit.

  1. Law and Order online archives do not include 1992.  Article available through National Coalition Building Institute.
Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Manners, Police, Political Extremes, Politics, Public Speaking | Tagged , , , , ,