Sunday, July 20, 2008

The "Despair-ity" of Personal Ethics

By Emily Stephens

Where Is the Justice?

Last week, a close friend/co-worker of mine was accused of timecard fraud at my office. The charge came as a total shock. I caught her in the parking lot as she left our building in tears. She explained the situation to me, and dispite my outrage, she asked I keep the matter private. I obeyed. Unfortunately, the investigation was discussed openly by management at our office, and to my friend’s detriment, the news spread like wildfire. To credit my friend’s bravery, she remained at work in silent protest of the wrongfulness of these charges, and despite the fact that her personal integrity was under public scrutiny.

Over the course of the week, I watched her battle complete humiliation. This private, embarrassing situation was discussed by all. Her boss, thinking he was doing the right thing, refused to come to her aid. Friday she was notified by HR that she’d been exonerated of all charges. Furthermore, HR ruled there wasn’t enough evidence for an investigation in the first place. Nevertheless, the damage is done. Relationships are in ruins. Trust between co-workers is flushed down the toilet.

Dr. Johnson

A few years ago, I had the honor of serving on a jury during the case of Dr. Johnson v. California State Prison system. Johnson served as one of the supervisory doctors who cared for the health of hardened criminals. Younger doctors who worked beneath him vied for his position. Although it didn’t seem premeditated, they accused Johnson of dementia and tried to force him into retirement. The charges were serious enough to warrant an official investigation into his well-being. He was forced to leave, and his license was revoked until the allegations were disproven. The stress of the situation took a tremendous toll on his health. In order to pay for his defense, he lost his home, cashed out his 401K, and said good-bye to his savings.

By the time his license was returned to him—he was found not guilty of the mental defect charges—he was no longer in a physical condition to return to work. A few years later, he testified before the jury, a sickly, weary, and hopeless man. Although we awarded him justice, his aggressors won. The damage was done, and no amount of money could give him back his faith, hope, and life.

Larry and Brandon

Newsweek’s current Top Story, entitled “Young, Gay and Murdered” describes the complicated tragedy of two 15-year-old boys, Larry and Brandon, whose relationship ended in bloodshed. Larry was flamboyant and troubled. Whether he was homosexual or not is still very much in question, as he had never had a relationship with anyone male or female, and how he dangerously and openly sought negative attention. In no way, shape, or form do I condone in the least degree his tragic murder, but the fact that he harrassed his killer cannot be neglected when examining the situation. The controversy over how schools can best deal with young teens caught up in adult issues of gender, identity, and sexuality is a difficult one. How do we fairly approach Brandon’s trial? How can we find the most appropriate justice for Larry when so much damage has already been done?

My Conclusion

I think everyone wants to do what is right. But, these events have taught me that ethics are far from simple. Although a form of justice can be given on this earth, it will always be lacking. With it comes loss, pain, anger, and confusion--things we cannot fix nor replace. True healing is beyond our power to award. As a civilization, we will continue to do our best to find mercy, justice, and healing. But as I grow older, the more I recognize there is only One who can truly “lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”

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