Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2002 / 7 Adar, 5762
The thinking here is if Lay can take the Fifth and avoid talking to us about all the money he and his cohorts at Enron mismanaged, then we should not talk to him.
Decent Americans should use their power to begin isolating the bad guys. We the people do have some power, you know. We have the power to form judgments and to make those judgments known. We can use our First Amendment rights to criticize those who damage our society, and we can use our Fifth Amendment rights to avoid talking directly to them.
This silent treatment can be devastating. Imagine if all Americans refused to talk to anyone who sold illegal drugs. Or if we all went mute when some Mafia guy passed by. Peer pressure is a powerful tool. If all law-abiding and fair-minded Americans simply ignored all the destructive people in our society -- those people would come under tremendous pressure.
Kenneth Lay and other corporate exploiters should be shunned the way O.J. Simpson has been shunned. Simpson is a good example of what peer pressure can do. The majority of Americans want nothing to do with this man. Country clubs have turned him down, respectable enterprises won't let him in the door, and the polls say most Americans think he is despicable.
This, of course, is driving Simpson nuts. He is desperate for approval, even calling into news programs to proclaim his victimhood. But he'll never again get approval. He is a pariah in America, as he should be.
That spontaneous rejection of sleaziness should be used much more often in America. Wife beaters, child abusers, dope dealers, bullies, sex perverts and the carnival of other embarrassing human beings should be shunned and given the silent treatment by society until they cease their corrosive behavior and pay their debt.
But we in America have a hard time forming judgments. Many of us are simply afraid to do it. So we provide excuses for revolting behavior and even afford sympathy to blatant wrongdoers.
That's why Kenneth Lay's wife felt she could go on "The Today Show" and attempt to portray the Lay family as victims. Wearing what looked to be a $13,000 watch, Linda Lay told the nation that the family was broke. Despite the millions of dollars that Enron paid Kenneth Lay and the millions of dollars in property that he owns -- the family somehow is destitute because of the mean witch hunt surrounding Enron.
Immediately after that was said, everybody on "The Today Show" should have gone mute and refused to talk to Mrs. Lay. Katie and Matt and Al and Ann should have put their hands over their mouths like those monkeys in the "see no evil" portraits do. No one should talk to someone as venal as Linda Lay.
There is, of course, all kinds of bad behavior on display in America. Some of it is criminal, most of it is not. But I'll tell you this: If I see someone who -- in my judgment -- is hurting society, I will quickly invoke my Fifth Amendment rights and give them the silent treatment. Suspected criminals are not the only ones who should use that
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