Do the right thing, always.
I am a man who believes in the spirit of the law. In principle, laws were created to guide people, to help them steer clear of danger, to protect them, and others, from harm. The police were created to enforce those laws, the judges to interpret them. This, on occasion, puts me at odds with our letter of the law society.
Why is that?
Because doing the right thing can be nothing but trouble. Doing the right thing can get you imprisoned, it can get you shot, it can get you killed. It can get you ostracized in public, hated by entire mobs of people, smeared in name and reputation on the nightly news. Why? Well, we generally, as a society, like to think that the people who do good are out here in the every day world, and are considered heroes, and that the truly evil people are punished in whatever way befits their alleged crime (usually put behind bars where we hope “Bubba” will teach ’em a lesson).
We love clear cut, black and white moral choices. Our media is filled with them, our politicians proclaim them from on high, right along with our clergy. We like to think we can see the right and wrong side of the road without any confusion, without any doubt or dilemma, but it simply isn’t true, and I think most of us know it.
Sometimes, to do the right thing, you have to cross the line from one side of the road to the other. Sometimes, the wrong thing to do is to stay in your lane, and to ignore what needs to be done, even if everyone else tells you that you’re a fool for doing it.
What am I getting at here? Simply this: sometimes, you will have to make the moral choice to do the right thing, even if no one supports you, if no one steps up to assist you, and even if it puts you directly into harm’s way as a result, whether physical, emotional, or even legal. As I’ve said many times, what is ethically right is not always legal, and what is legal is not always ethically right.
It’s not always like the movies, where the hero takes out the bad guys and goes home with a clear conscience and a determination to win the day again and again. Doing the right thing can leave you emotionally wounded. Regardless of whether you’re a police officer, a soldier, a healer, a witness, a passerby, or just a good Samaritan in a position where they can save a life whether it be metaphorically or physically, sometimes doing the right thing will leave you with scars, whether they be physical, mental, or emotional, and sometimes those scars don’t heal quickly. Often, they never completely heal.
Dealing with this kind of thing isn’t easy. Humans aren’t easy. Hell, if only humans were easy. It would save a lot of trouble for everyone involved, and we could just live together and not do the things we do to one another. Sometimes, good people do bad things, make mistakes, miss the mark. Believe it or not, bad people can do good things, have a change of heart and become good people. Of course, when it comes down to it, the vast majority of us are simple people who try to do good, and fumble around in the dark along the way. Some get it together, eventually, while the rest of us just keep trying, groping in the dark for the light switch so we can know which way to turn.
Some might chalk this up to moral relativism. Well, while some morality is relative, for me there are core components of morality, of ethics, that I don’t find to be relative. Instead, they are key components to how I think, and act:
Firstly, try not to harm another human being. If it’s done by accident, if it’s done with the best of intentions, then I believe it is in the best interest of people to give them a chance to make it right in a positive way.
Secondly, always try to do good. By that, I mean try to make someone’s life better. Improve upon their standing in some way. Feed a hungry person, give your coat to the homeless soul who is cold. Acknowledge a lonely heart, and try to give them comfort. If someone rejects your attempts, accept that without bitterness or malice, and move on.
Thirdly, and this is a big one, take every opportunity to save a life. If you see someone being harmed, step up! Don’t look away! Don’t turn that blind eye, or deaf ear. You may be the only one who can save that life. It may be as simple as dialing 911, or getting the attention of a nearby first responder.
This goes for the internet as well, and may be the area most fraught with such situations, because of its vast utility and connection with so many other human beings. If you see someone talking of suicide, step up! Don’t ignore them. There will be people ignoring that person, some even mocking them for wanting attention, but it may be life or death, and if you’re wrong, so what? If you’re right, you may save a life. If you are witness to images or videos of abuse (whether domestic abuse, child abuse, or any other kind of situation), don’t click away, don’t delete it and pretend you never saw it, report it! Their lives may depend upon your action, so step up!
Just, please, don’t walk away. Don’t ignore the back alley, real or virtual, because you hear a scream. Yes, it may put you in danger. It may get you in legal trouble. Every part of you might insist that you move on, stay out of trouble, and not “tempt fate,” but if you save a life, if your actions end up doing good, then you have done the right thing.
Let me share something with you, and this does draw from some of my previous posts: there are good people with good hearts sitting in prison. They made mistakes, or they didn’t have the resources to properly defend themselves, and so they ended up behind bars, having not hurt a single soul.
There are terrible people, who have murdered, who have sexually molested others, who have stolen food right out of the mouths of children, who have consigned entire classes of people to misery and poverty, and they are free to move about, unhindered. Some of them occupy political office and are seen as decent human beings, even despite these awful things they have done.
Doing good, doing the right thing, doesn’t always get rewarded. Hell, it often gets ignored in favor of whatever sensational headline has grabbed the attention of the masses for that moment.
To those of you who are conflicted, to those of you who want to do right but still finding that you’re doing wrong, it is never too late to start doing the right thing. You are not lost, you are not evil, you are just a human being, like the rest of us. Everyone is capable of doing good.
So I have, once again, rambled in this post, but the news has stirred my heart to keep talking. It unsettled my mind, it disturbs my soul. I just keep letting it all out, like a hot, boiling lather, spilling onto these pages. Yes, my mind is troubled, my heart is troubled, I do not feel as if I belong here in this world. Suffice to say, these days, I am absolutely certain there are people who would agree, some would even encourage me to kill myself. A number of those advocating such would probably be politicians, too. That is the world in which we live, the venom which is coursing through our veins. If we do not change, if we cannot change, if we decide that it is preferable to adopt these values, to reject kindness and compassion and glorify hatred and callous disregard, I believe it will be the end of us, the end of the best of us.
That is why I implore you, I beg you, to do good. Don’t turn a blind eye, or a deaf ear. Don’t let a legalistic issue prevent you from taking an ethical stand that could save a life. Listen to the weakest voices, the invisible souls who need us the most. Hear them. Reach out to them. Help them, and damn the costs in the process.
Do what is right.
Do the right thing, always.