The Widdershins

Standing for nothing…

Posted on: June 17, 2014

Good afternoon Widdershins.

The Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl episode has caused me to engage in an over-abundance of thought about “values.” Thinking Bowe Bergdahlabout values isn’t new or particularly unique since a system of “sustaining and sustainable values” is central to understanding leadership. And when I say “leadership,” I mean anyone who aspires to place themselves in a position of leading with followers.

If you are even a casual viewer/victim of cable news, you hear a lot about “values.” More often than not, those people waxing eloquent are interchangeably using the words values, principles, ethics, and morality. They are not the same. The differences are important. The recklessness of their interchangeable usage, as does the Bergdahl affair, highlight the cheapening of what was once sacrosanct in our society — the concept of values.

So we can all start at the same point in this analysis, a few paragraphs on the differences among values, principles, ethics, and morality would seem to be in order. First, values are those core beliefs we form early in our lives. Once formed, they are unchangeable and indelible. They are as unique to an individual as eye color or fingerprints. Values form the basis of our internal compass.

Personally, I am quite reticent about criticizing someone’s values. Basically there are two reasons: First, values are so personal, it is the equivalent of criticizing someone’s hair color or weight, and second, it does no good. Trying to change someone’s values is a fool’s errand, it is a waste of time — you can’t change someone’s values.

A few other nuggets about values: If you find yourself in a situation where you are somehow affiliated with someone who consistently proclaims values, but acts in violation of those claimed values, do yourself a favor — run. Run away as fast as possible.

Some of the most dangerous and destructive people on the planet are those who proclaim a set of values and change them as often as they change socks. Associating with someone who has repugnant values is far superior to associating with someone who has no values at all. Someone with transactional or situational values is no more predictable than a two-headed snake and a lot less loyal. So run, don’t walk, and avoid such people at all costs.

ValuesAnother point worth mentioning is that there is no such thing as “family values.” Anyone who proclaims “family values” has never been to a Thanksgiving dinner at my house. Values are personal and they are not replicated through genetics. The term “family values” is nothing more than a socially and politically desirable shorthand for a set of conjured principles deemed morally superior and as such, a barrier for acceptance by one group over another. In other words, “family values” is a cudgel to beat down those who are deemed of lesser value in order for those doing the beating to appear worthier in comparison.

Which brings us to principles. Principles are those beliefs we acquire as we go through life. We often hold them dearly and strongly. While they can appear like values, they aren’t. Principles can change. Conservatives can become liberals and vice versa. A pro-choice person can become anti-abortion. A dogged chauvinist might become a feminist — unlikely, but possible.

While our set of values remain unchanging, principles come and go throughout our lifetimes. Principles are more often than not a product of our sociological and economic environment. When those external stimuli change, often our principles do too.

That is not to say principles are not central to who we are as people. Principles are how we are informed, how we vote, how or if we worship, how we parent, how we socialize, and any of a thousand other things that round out our human journeys. But since principles are acquired — a process of conscious acquisition, criticism of principles is fair game in my book.

This leads us to ethics. Ethics are how we treat one another when we decide we belong together — whether we belong Don't let someone change who you are to become what they needtogether as a family, a community, a country, and increasingly, as a planet. Professional groups, social groups, corporations, even communities adopt codes of ethics — those rules governing how we treat one another. In a country of laws and judicial review, our ethics are proscribed through permissible actions, while at the same time guaranteeing the rights of those not in the majority. The Bill of Rights is nothing more than an enduring code of ethics not unlike a Rotary Club creed.

Finally, this brings us to morality. Morality is the stuff we ought to have learned by kindergarten. Morality is the differences between right and wrong. While there can be gradations of gray in ethics, morality offers no such leeway. Like values, morality is personal, but it is governed by a large societal scorecard. Almost always our personal morality is effectuated and amplified by our values. Thus, we have come full circle. We have a word for what morality is not — “immoral“, but we don’t have a word for what values are not, but that is what this post is for.

To tie these concepts into a nice tidy bundle, I have found no better analogy than the game of chess. It is an analogy that has withstood scrutiny and it goes like this:

In chess, the paramount value dictated above all else is the efficacy of the King. The value of protecting the King is of supreme importance. The moves, the defenses, the offenses, or the feints we use to protect the King are the principles we employ as we play the game. The rules governing all who choose to play are the ethics. And the morality is whether or not we cheated during that play. Those are the differences between values, principles, ethics, and morality.

What does this have to do with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl? Simply put — everything. “Leaving no person behind,” was as close to a universal American value as they come. Leaving no one behind was where we altered the principle, “the good of the many outweigh the good of the one,” and changed it to, “the good of the one outweighs the good of the many.” Leaving no one behind was a celebrated societal ethic — it was how we had decided to treat one another. Even if not a value or a principle on a personal level, we had deemed it an imperative of morality and a collective ethic. It was the right thing to do.

That is — until the Drudge Report bat signal went up on the Saturday after the announcement of Bergdahl‘s release. The Drudge Report is the Pavlovian klaxon these days signaling to tear helter-skelter and headlong into full-blown criticism without the slightest bit of reflection. Within hours of the announcement of Sgt. Bergdahl’s release, after five years — five years — of incapacitating confinement, it was on. Unmerciful criticism of him, his family, the President, the military, the State Department, Homeland Security, the intelligence community, and just about anyone who dared mention “Bergdahl” without adding the words — traitor or deserter was subject to unbridled scathing judgment.

There were those who had previously supported the exact same deal reported almost verbatim in June 2012 by now-deceased reporting wunderkind Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone who now found the deal objectionable. There were those who actually recalled and deleted tweets offering “thoughts and prayers” for Bergdahl and his family. There were those who claimed Bergdahl’s father, a devout Christian, was a secret Muslim because of the beard he had grown as a show of solidarity for his son. His hometown had to cancel a homecoming celebration out of fear of thousands of protesters.

Thankfully these vicious attacks have somewhat subsided since it became known Bergdahl is psychologically fragile after having been kept in a six-by-six cage for a large part of the five years. It just as well might be these vicious attacks have subsided since there is very little left to say beyond the vitriol already spewed. Whatever the reason, there is an opportunity for learning here. Learning that is ominous in its consequences.

However inartfully I’m saying it, “whatever leaving no one behind is, be it a value, principle, ethic, or morality, it is ethics moral principlessomething we just watched being cavalierly discarded during the Bergdahl imbroglio.” What is even more perplexing: For those who led the charge of this indignity, there seems to have been no cost — either by condemnation or shunning. This is new and particularly worrisome.

Have we reached a point in this country where there is nothing sacred in terms of our shared values, principles, ethics, or morality? Is nothing above the rancorous pettiness that passes for national discourse these days?

Do those people who purportedly stand before us as “wannabe leaders” offer nothing more than insidious transactional values ready to be auctioned for some face time on cable news? Since when did our ethics become so abysmally bankrupt that it is acceptable to treat one of our own so shamefully?

When did getting five minutes in the news cycle come to have more currency than an inviolate pledge to leave no one behind? When did we invert the burden of proof to pronounce Bergdahl guilty of desertion no matter what the proof of innocence might be? And most importantly, when did we, as a people, become so anesthetized to this behavior that we became okay with this type of thing?

This list of imponderables is virtually infinite. What’s more, that this list of questions is limitless is what makes this shameful episode so foreboding. By tolerating this craven disregard for our values, our principles, our shared ethic, and even our morality, this marks a new low for us as a society. Has the venomous rancor turned us into a people who stand for nothing? If it has, we will fall for anything.

This is an open thread.








25 Responses to "Standing for nothing…"

Prolix said:

For those who led the charge of this indignity, there seems to have been no cost — either by condemnation or shunning. This is new and particularly worrisome.

Other than the poking fun of Jon Stewart, you’re right in no one has been called out on this. I think it’s reflective of our politically divided country. “We” don’t pay attention to those folks on Faux News and “they” don’t really care what “we” think. They know their audience and it’s exactly who they play to.

@1, Fredster, you are right, but you can see this type of “no cost” blustering all over the media on Iraq. Just Sunday, there was McCain, Wolfowitz, Bremer, Lady Lindsey, all of them just dead wrong on Iraq and they get dusted off and paraded out to bluster without any consequence for the mess they wholeheartedly endorsed and got us into.

I think we have finally jumped the shark on cable news where we just consider it as infotainment and call it all good.

@2: Oh I know where you’re coming from. Maddow did a piece on them (the losers aka neoncons) last night and took the media to task for (1) having them on the teevee talk shows, and (2) not even bothering to question their ideas that failed the first time.

She also mentioned that Michael Hastings has a book coming out posthumously on print media. it is supposed to really tear into Newsweek.

Wolfowitz, I start grinding my teeth when I see him or see or hear his name. 👿

Prolix wrote:

Another point worth mentioning is that there is no such thing as “family values.” Anyone who proclaims “family values” has never been to a Thanksgiving dinner at my house.

I always figured the “right” got that idea from Norman Rockwell paintings or possibly maybe the German thing of Kinder, Küche, Kirche, but where did the Germans get the idea?

Prolix: So what do you know about the 6th Circuit C.o.A. in Cincy? Do they trend to the left or right?

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 6 as the single day to hear arguments in the five marriage equality cases pending before the court, setting up a historic day for each of the four states in the circuit.

In four separate notices on Monday, the Sixth Circuit, which is located in Cincinnati, announced that arguments for the cases in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee will take place on August 6 at 1 pm.

Since Cincy is a suburb of Kentucky, it’s hard to picture a panel laden with wild-eyed libs.

Yep, but the judges are appointed by the Prez and confirmed by the Senate and ya know, lifetime job. I was just wondering if prolix had any idea of how many repub and dem appointees to that bench.

Did anyone watch Hillary on Faux News? I didn’t even know it was on. I’ll watch the replay of the CNN Townhall at 9 eastern.

Bill Maher made an interest comment on the Bergdahl trade. He said: “We don’t trade hostages for prisoners. We trade them for arms.” But let’s not talk about that!

The parade of neocons on Iraq is surreal. I mean, just when you think this hole we are on can’t get any deeper, it does!

Oh, I have not forgotten.
I got a message from Fredster that his internet server has bitten the dust, so we’ll continue with this thread.

@5, Surprisingly, the 6th Circuit is pretty middle of the road. I’m not sure how many judges are on senior status, but there are 16 seats and one of the 16 is vacant. About half of the 16 are Bush appointments. Obama has put 2 on the bench and there’s 3, I think, left from Clinton’s era. The rest is a smattering of Reagan and GHWB.

It’s my guess, since they held the five cases, they are going to make a sweeping ruling upholding marriage equality. The Sixth Circuit at one time — mid-90s through early 2000s, was a pretty liberal Circuit in terms of criminal procedure cases. With the Bushies, not so much now.

@9, I watched Hillary on CNN — thought she did an outstanding job. She needs to let her real personality shine through. She is doing that more now than she did in 2008, but I’d like to see more of the real Hillary. She is funny and engaging according to everyone who writes about her, I’d like to see more of that.

As for the Faux dealio, Brett Baier did his Foxly duties, asked 15 questions and 12 of them were Benghazi or Benghazi-related. Those people are nutz.

@10 — in addition to going back to the very people who lied us into Iraq for advice, like Crystal and Wolfowitz, the WSJ actually printed an oped from none other than Dick Cheney and his daughter, the failed Senate candidate. Liz Cheney, whose only professional job, was a 32nd under secretary of something close to the water cooler during her daddy’s administration.

Dick & Daughter have saddled up a new group, I guess they need another fundraising tool to pay them to spew their bile. It is the “Alliance to Keep America Strong” or some such horse manure — nothing like home cooking to keep the family business in plenty of government war contracts. D & D are really worried about the Rand Paul isolationist faction getting a foothold in the Repub party — bad, very bad, for the family business. Here’s the link:

Is it just me or has anyone else been curiously amazed at the uncommon silence of Netanyahu during this Iraq spool-up?

It is a head scratcher.

I’m here but don’t know for how long…that’s up to the Charter internet gawds.

Prolix@15: Both Maddow and Jon Stewart have commented on the fact that all the talk shows are giving these neocon losers air time when everything they said leading up to the Iraqi was has been proved wrong. And as far as them blaming Obama for moving all the troops out of Iraq, that was Bush and Al-Marlarkey. They could not agree on a forces agreement so Dubya said okay, we’ll take all the troops out!

The Washington Redskins have lost the patent protections for their logos, and the Faux News drones are out in full force howling that its all Obama’s fault and the Obama govt is taking away everyone’s rights. (It never ceases to amaze me that these idiots always defend the rich, powerful and undeserving.) They also keep commenting that this issue is new, that we horrible libruls have recently created this issue, and that “redskins” is some kind of term of endearment or an “honor” to Indians. Seriously, I have read that several times tonite in comments of different articles. To the best of my knowledge, the tribes have officially stated that they find the team name offensive most of my life. Ever since I can remember (and I can remember my childhood back to age 2), I have heard stories from my mom and grandpa, and other relatives of theirs being called “dirty redskins” when they went to town with my great grandmother in Oklahoma. My mom said their was terrible prejudice there back then, and when she was 17, she moved to Los Angeles and only went back once to show her grandma her first daughter. Was the word redskin ever used with good adjectives? Like “honest redskin” or “hardworking redskin”? Of course not, more like thievin’, lazy, or dirty.

Why is this idiot owner making such a big deal about keeping the name of his team? If the tribes say its a slur, then its a slur. Change the name and maybe you’ll change your teams luck. When was the last time they were a winning team? The 80s?

On another (but related) note, I just learned that the NFL has tax exempt status?!?! What the hell? 9 billion in revenue, but they call themselves “non-profit” and get the exemption. When you think about all the taxpayer funded things that support these teams, like police, fire depts, roads, airports, etc, that is pretty outrageous. This country just hates making the wealthy pay their share. Grrrrr.

Apparently federal law prohibits giving trademark protection to “disparaging or offensive language.”

annie@19: I didn’t know you had any Native American in your family. I do too, on my Dad’s side and from his mother. With my grandmother and dad, you could really see it in their noses and cheekbones. With the family’s location in Ky. it had to be a Cherokee background and I’d say the same with you if you had family in Oklahoma. To be honest, I really never gave the name a thought until this started up, but I can see where Native Americans could be offended. Hey, since his team is in DC (or at least nearby) and since DC (at least the fed govt) is so messed up, call ’em the Washington Fubars; it would suit the team’s luck.

Oh and yes the NFL AND Major League Baseball are tax exempt. I don’t know about the NBA, but probably the same for them. 👿

Tax exempt. Astonishing. They use publicly paid for services, so they should have to pay like the rest of us. Maybe its just the organizations that are tax exempt? And the individual teams pay corp taxes?

Yes, my great grandma was Cherokee. My Grandpa and Mom absolutely have the bone structure. I have the cheekbones and my forehead is similar, but I also look like my Dad, who is Greek. My mom spent a lot of time with her, so was able to spend part of her young years in that culture. Her grandmother made her a beaded headband and other things, and taught her a lot. My mom always revered her and my older sis named her daughter after her first name & I named laker after her last name (the Indian great grandma).My sis went to Cherokee NC & OK last June to trace her. She met some amazing people and really enjoyed it. She found her grave in Ok and it was a terrifyingly stormy day with, of course, a tornado. My sis was a mess, emotional from tracing our great grandmothers journey and ending with her grave, and then being terrified from the tornado.

@21 & 22: Fredster, and Annie, those are fascinating stories about your Native American backgrounds. Fredster, there are, or were, a variety of Native American tribes in both Kentucky and Oklahoma, so you may be something other than Cherokee. My grandmother was Choctaw. She grew up in Oklahoma but she also had Kentucky ancestry.

Doing genealogy can be like solving a mystery. I studied Jewish history when I was in college even though I am not Jewish. It was just an interesting subject to me. But when I was older and my grandmother was in her 90’s, she told me that my grandfather’s maternal grandmother was Jewish. It had been kept a secret in the family. ( My grandfather had been dead for about 20 years when she told me. ) By Jewish law, that meant that his mother was Jewish and so was he, although they did not practice Judaism ( they were Quakers ). I was amazed to find out my grandfather was Jewish. Maybe that was why I was drawn to study the subject. It also helped explain why, on my grandfather’s side of the family, all the male infants were circumcised, even though they were born at home in small 19th century pioneer farming communities in the Midwest. It can’t have been a very safe procedure. In fact, my great-great aunt’s only son died of “blood poisoning” following his circumcision.

I look like the Irish side of the family. I can’t get a tan to save my life.

Beata@23: The reason I mentioned the possibility of the Cherokee ancestry was because one time I went to the National Park there in my dad’s hometown and they had a number of books/pamphlets for sale on Native Americans that were focused on the Cherokee. if I recall correctly a big group of them migrated from North Carolina into that southeastern part of Kentucky. It’s really just a guess on my part. My grandmother was never able to give me a real clear story on her background. 😦

Beata, that is really interesting info about your family, and especially that you studied Jewish history without knowing. Yes, I think you sensed it. Laker is taking American Indian history in the Fall.

I talked to my mom tonite and she was full of glee over the “Redskins” patent loss. She told me a few more facts about her grandmother–she had to get off the sidewalk when their were white people on it, she was spit on, called redskin & other epithets. She also was supposed to get a monthly stipend either from the govt or the oil company that ripped off her land, but she wouldn’t go into town to claim it becuz of the harassment that went with it. The checks apparently just accumulated. We have no idea what ever happened to that money.

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