JWR Jeff JacobyBen WattenbergRoger Simon
Mona CharenDr. Laura
Linda Chavez

Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellMUGGERWalter Williams
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Jewish World Review /Dec. 11, 1998 /22 Kislev, 5759

Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura Spread righteousness by refusing to accept the 'code'

PERHAPS GANGSTER MOVIES are not the best place to learn to distinguish between right and wrong. Nonetheless, there was always a "code" which, though not precluding all sorts of mayhem and murder, did forbid "snitching." In fact, tremendous sympathy was generated for even the worst of characters as long as they stayed loyally silent. However, honor was not the main motivation for a buttoned-up lip; assassination was the universally understood penalty for talking.

We law-abiding types are supposed to operate on a more ethical plane. In order to preserve freedom, truth and right, we are supposed to point the finger at evildoers to protect their individual victims as well as society and civilization as a whole. It would seem that it is human nature to avoid doing so if it promises any discomfort, embarrassment or challenge.

Consider the incensed parent who called my syndicated radio program, angry with his son for his misdeeds, but even more furious with the nonchalant reaction of a number of other parents to the widespread problem of teen drinking.

"At least my son 'fessed up to drinking at a friend's house. He will be punished for drinking," the frustrated dad told me. "But the really upsetting thing is that my son and three of his buddies were actually served liquor by one of the boys' parents! When I called the folks of the two other boys, they said that boys will be boys, and drinking is no big deal."

I asked about reporting this illegal activity (serving alcohol to a minor) to the police for possible prosecution. The father told me that he tried that. But as long as none of the children will testify to the truth, there was nothing to be done legally. His son said he wouldn't "snitch on his buddies." This father was frustrated by his son's distortion of loyalty and obligation to his friends rather than a dedication to the principles of right and wrong.

The boy was afraid of losing his buddies and being disdained as a snitch. He was choosing the moves of gangsters rather than holy men. Obviously, at 15, he should know better. No doubt that the pull of peers is a powerful undertow, with seductive promises of acceptance, status and identity. However, children need to be taught from their earliest years that his same undertow sucks children into the depths of alienation from family, values, a meaningful life and G-d.

That is exactly the conversation I had with a graduate student whose sister attended the same Christian school as an undergraduate. One of her requirements was to attend chapel for one-half hour each day. She didn't want to be bothered and asked her brother to help her out by writing a note falsifying that she would be working on an important project with him and couldn't attend chapel. In fact, the "project" was a birthday present he was preparing for his mom --- and the sister was not helping at all.

Since he was attending a Christian school, I asked him how he justified "bearing false witness" and not being the proper spiritual role model for his younger sister. He waffled all over the place in trying to answer, but the bottom line was that she'd give him grief if he didn't. I upped the ante by asking, "The threat of her annoyance was enough to have you turn your back and walk away from G-d?" He haltingly said, "Yes." But I bet he's thinking more about it.

Both the teen-ager with his drinking buddies and this young man with his cheating sister are examples of how all of us sometimes choose to walk away from what is right and righteous in order to be accepted and have nobody mad at us. But ultimately, what peace is there in ethical chaos and loyalty to immorality? Who then will protect us from victimhood if we all train each other to stay comfortable?

I suggested to that father that he make his son's life very uncomfortable (no electronic goodies, free time, socializing, family outings, etc.) as he retrains him to have the courage to stand alone if necessary for what is right, rather than bow to the idol of mob acceptance. That is, after all, the right stuff of true heroes. I suggested to the graduate student that he sacrifice immediate peace with his younger sister for the benefit of teaching her the value of inner strength and discipline.

If each of us fails to act as though our individual, seemingly small acts of righteousness matter, how will the Earth ever teem with goodness?


©1998,Universal Press Syndicate