Teaching Notes

You must become the flame on the candle. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Courage Under Fire '08

Have you ever failed to voice your opinion because you feared the consequences? What was the situation? Why didn't you have the courage to speak? Please respond prior to class Thurs., Dec. 4.

29 comments:

Nicole said...

I've actually been in situations like this very recently. I work in a small restaurant, where all the employees are very close with one another and have become quite family-like over the past 4 years I've been working there. However, we've gone through about 10 different managers during my time there, and when they come in they usually try to change how things are run, but the staff wants to keep it the same. We had a manager who wanted to cut back on the amount of staff during the weekends, but we knew that we would then be busy and rushed and not be able to focus on our customers. At a meeting, our manager basically told us that this was how it was going to be, causing a lot of us to not speak our mind because we were afraid to lose our jobs.

In addition, this semester I've worked with a group of students on an executive board. We're all very different and bring a lot of opinions and ideas to the table. However, there is one member on the board who feels he is in control of us and often pressures us to agree with his ideas and puts them into affect. Although we've all approached him in the past and aren't necessarily afraid of confronting him, we've learned that nothing comes out of it because he just continues with his old ways and won't budge for the group. It's very hard working with him but we've learned that no matter what we say or do, he's going to find a way to get what he wants.

Brianna said...

I spent a very recent semester living next door to a girl whose boyfriend was physically and verbally abusing her. I couldn’t even tell what was going on at first, after the first few weeks of moving in, it kind of always sounded like someone was moving in next door. Loud objects moving around, banging and booming, I thought nothing of it. The first few weeks of school were especially strange trying to figure out what all the noise was coming from next door. When the noises were the loudest on weekend nights, I realized it couldn’t be moving furniture, I also realized there were loud angry screaming voices muffled into the loud noises. I kind of started to put it together and thought, maybe its roommates that fight a lot.
It turned out to be a girl around my same age living by herself. One night the girl’s boyfriend came into our building and slammed the building’s door so hard I looked through my peephole and saw him come up the stairs, and start banging on her door. I recognized him from around, I’d met him before and thought he was nice. I literally have a creepy but perfect view of her door from my peephole, it is right across from me. I saw him banging, and screaming for her to open the door. He was screaming that she was a slut and other horrible names, and how he couldn’t believe her, couldn’t believe what a slut she was, and how he “NEEDED HER TO OPEN THE F-ING DOOR.” She opened the door and he stormed in. I stopped looking, but started hearing the banging noises I’d heard so far the whole semester. He was beating the shit out of her. Yelling, and clearly throwing her into things.
The yelling got so loud, I know I wasn’t the only one in the building to hear it. Maybe I felt the worst because I was the closest. The voices were so loud, I had a feeling the fight had broken into the hallway. Sure enough, through the peephole I looked she was struggling, straddled with two legs secured in the doorway pushing him out as hard she could. She was in her underwear and all my red alerts went off inside. He was pushing back at her. She lost her strength and he flung her back into the apartment. His figure never turned around. I just watched through the peephole, him throwing her into her apartment and slamming the door behind him.
This isn’t a situation that was just conveniently good for the blog response. Im not kidding when I say I lost sleep over this the first few nights I realized it was going on. And the noises continued every week, about 3 nights a week. The banging and screaming, especially drunk weekend nights where I couldn’t even imagine how bad he must have been hurting her.
I thought of knocking on her door the day after the really big fight, just to see if she was okay. But her friends were in and out of her apartment all day that day. Then I thought the sick thought, oh my god do her friends know? And don’t say anything? And don’t help her? I don’t know. I guess I should have showed some moral courage and told her that if she needed help (WHICH SHE DID) she needed to get it, immediately. If she didn’t, I should have told her, I would. I didn’t though. I thought, if I was in that situation I would want everyone to mind their own business and not get involved. Then I thought, holy shit, what if this guy really hurts her one time? And I didn’t say anything? And I could hear her getting beat up through my paper-thin wall? What would I want someone to do to help me? What would this girl’s mom want me to do? What would she think of me I tried to help? All kinds of chaotic questions swarmed my mind, but I ultimately did nothing. All I could do was give her the cowardly “I’m sorry your boyfriend beats you” smile whenever I saw her…
I feel really strange but kind of therapeutic writing about this.

Howie Good said...

It took courage, Brianna, to recount this. Bravo.

katrina said...

Late one night over the summer, I went to my friend's house to hang out and have a drink on his backyard patio. When I got there, he and another one of our friends who was visiting from about an hour away were already pretty drunk.

"We've been drinking since three in the afternoon!" they screeched at me as the gate slammed shut behind me. I laughed and poured myself a drink.

Over the course of about three hours, I watched them get progressively drunker and listened to them proclaim it over and over: "I'm sooooo fucked uppppp!"

Normally, I would've been right there with them, but I had work in the morning. Plus, I drove, so I limited the partying to two drinks.

When it got really late, I stretched and stood up, searching for my car keys in my bag. "I'm gonna take off guys," I said.

"Yeah, you know what, I am too," said the visiting friend. She stood up and knocked her chair over behind her, laughing and stumbling as she righted it.

At first I thought she was kidding. She was obviously in no condition to drive. But then she dug her keys out of her bag and slung it over her shoulder.

"Ready to go?" she sloshed.

I looked at my other friend. His eyes were drooping and he let out a large hiccup as he shrugged his shoulders. "She drives drunk all the time," he said. "Don't worry about it."

But I WAS worrying about it. She lived about an hour away, and she had to take a parkway to get back home. High speeds.

"I really don't think you should drive," I told her. "Just sleep here, it's one night. I can set up the couch for you and everything." I told her as I followed her to the front yard.

"Nnnnnope!" she said, scratching the driver's side door as she searched for the keyhole. "Chill out, it's fine." Finally finding the hole, she wrenched the door open and clambered into the driver's seat.

I thought about grabbing the keys out of her hand and running with them. I was definitely more agile than her at the moment. But instead I watched her tail lights until she was out of sight.

This story could have had a tragic ending, and I thank god every day that it didn't. My friend got home that night without an accident, without even getting pulled over. But I don't know what I would do if I had passed up the chance to stop her and something had happened.

Howie Good said...

What prevents us from doing what we know is right? Is it fear? If it is fear, then fear of what?

Doron Tyler Antrim said...

Talking to my father about his smoking is one instance where I have continuously neglected to voice my opinion because I feared the consequences.

He has smoked cigarettes for his entire adult life and it's the only bad habit he has. He goes through a couple of packs a day, working on job-sites as the sole-proprietor of a landscape construction business. He has never seriously tried to quit, although I think he really wants to. Never has any member of my family honestly called him out on it and tried to help him quit. As his oldest son, I would be in a position to tell him how much he needs to stop, and how much I fear the health effects his habit will most certainly have.

But I've never raised my voice. We aren't terribly close as father and son (we used to be when I was younger) but nevertheless I fear stirring the calmness of our relationship. I'm not one for confronting people, not to mention family, and talking with them about sensitive subjects. I try at all costs to avoid these situations.

Not only for this reason have I not had the courage to talk to my father about his habit, but he has gone out of his way to make his smoking somewhat secret, and I've rationed over the years that it's therefore less of a pressing issue to confront. He has never smoked in front of my brother and I, my mother, or other family. He never smokes inside our house, even in winter. Many close friends are shocked to learn that he's a smoker and that he has been one for years.

I also have the feeling that even if I do speak, things will not change. The damages he's done to his body are largely irreversible at this point. Sometimes I think he won't listen to me, and that speaking to him about his habit will be an exercise in futility.

I don't believe I'm a weak person because I haven't had the courage to speak in this circumstance. I think avoiding conflict with others is part of human nature. Plus, neglecting to speak to my father about his habit hasn't had repercussions outside my family circle. Therefore, I've rationed that my failure to speak will only have a limited impact.

However, should deciding whether or not to speak be judged by the scale of its impact? If it affects one person or a million people, isn't it just as worthwhile?

emma said...

My situation is really rather personal, but probably one of the only legitimately non trivial dilemmas I have found myself in.

My parents recently split up. They are currently not legally divorced, but my mom lives in a different house about ten minutes from my dad. Their situation is not hostile. My dad comes over frequently to visit my mom or to work on her new house. Over the summer, before my mom moved out my dad decided to let me know he had been seeing his ex-wife. He said that there was nothing currently going on, but he was visiting her and he thought that they were connecting. At this point I had no reservations in telling him that I thought that he was being shitty, for lack of a better term, to have someone else's foot in the door before my mom had even moved out.

He acted surprised by my reaction. I made it clear that him dating another woman was not what the real problem was. It was more that he thought it would be okay to tell me and my sister without my mom knowing.

My sister and I now know that he is potentially dating someone else, with my mom none the wiser. The position I am in is to be the bearer of bad news and let my mom know, or to keep quiet and let my parents continue to have a friendly relationship.

It is selfish on my part to not to disturb our family's situation any further and I know it would only hurt my mom. My dad's decision was completely selfish because he has basically made us lie to our mom.

I continue to not say anything because I know what the consequences would be. I try to rationalize not saying anything by thinking that this is not my fight. Unfortunately I am currently just trying to comes to terms with, what she doesn't know can't hurt her.

ZK said...

At first I was hesitant to write about this particular situation in my life because it's a personal experience and an emotional one. But after reading Briana's blog response, I gained the courage to speak about this situation.

For years, my father had problems with alcohol. I guess you can say he was an aggressive, angry drunk. There were nights when he would come home and verbally abuse my mother, my brother, and I.

I remember not being able to sleep on nights he went out until I would hear the keys in the door knob and knew he was home and safe.

I was scared what foolish act he would commit next because he was under the influence. I always feared for the worst.

But for some reason I never had the courage to speak to him about his problem with alcohol. I feared he would get angry, so angry that he would leave the house and go out and drink more.

Seeing the pain in my mother's eyes and the struggle she endured due to my father's problem, I went up to her one day and said. "Mom, I'm going to stand up to Dad and tell him he needs to stop drinking."
She quickly replied, "No, it's not your place to tell him. He won't listen to you. He won't even listen to me."

So I decided not to act. But a couple of months later, my father got into a really bad physical altercation (while under the influence of alcohol.) He came home that night hurt, and woke up the entire house with his screaming and yelling. After seeing the way he interracted with my mom, I finally had enough. The next morning, I had a long talk with my father about his problem and how it was not only affecting him but our entire family. I told him that if he didn't change his ways, he would lose us (my mom, brother, and I)

It was that day, that I saw tears coming down my dad's face because he had realized he NEEDED to change his ways in order to live a better and healthier life, and he's been sober ever since.

Looking back on this entire situation now, I have mixed feelings about how I handled the situation. On the one hand, I'm glad I finally gained the courage to express my thoughts to my dad about his problem, because if I didn't who knows where he'd be right now. On the other hand, I feel regret for not voicing my opinion earlier about his drinking issues, because maybe my family would've been better off if i did.

Julie said...

I think this is something that unfortunately, everyone goes through at some point in their lives. For me, it happened around this time last year. I had booked a flight to Australia for Christmas break during finals week, with consent from my professors that I could take my exams a week earlier than scheduled. Coincidently, some foreign exchange students in one of my classes also needed to take their exams early as well due to flight schedules.
We were all in one large room with stadium seating. The foreign exchange students all sat together behind me, a level higher than my seat. While I was taking my test I could hear them whispering and passing something underneath the table back and forth. I tried to ignore it and continue taking my final.
I watched as one by one they got up and handed in their exams. Eventually, there was only me and a few other people left in the room. Only one girl remained from the group of foreign exchange students. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, confused. The girl pushed her paper toward me and asked me if I could give her the answer to one of the questions. Now, I am willing to openly admit that in high school I was guilty of cheating on minor Math quizzes (not trying to play down the severity of cheating). However, cheating on a FINAL EXAM in COLLEGE where a professor can clearly see all of my actions was not something I was willing to do. Not to mention the fact that I had stayed up until 3AM the night before studying. I simply shook my head "no" and turned back around to finish my exam.
I briefly considered helping her only because I know in the past, as I mentioned, I have cheated and if the situation was reversed of course I would appreciate the help(at this point in my college career however I wouldn't dare ask a fellow student to assist me in cheating.)
After I looked over my exam for errors I walked down to where my professor stood waiting to collect the papers. As I approached him I contemplated whether or not I wanted to inform him of the cheaters who had been sitting behind me. As I reached him, i froze up and I just handed him my test. I guess I didn't say anything because I was somehow afraid it would come back and bite me in the butt, or that the students would find out it was me who had told on them and harass me. I guess I believe on some level that as students we're all in it together; all on the same team. Although I knew what they were doing was wrong I couldn't bring myself to tell him.
To my benefit, my professor has seen the whole thing and after we chatted for a while about Australia, he informed me that he saw the whole escapade.The students had apparently been passing a jacket back and forth with the answers taped to the inside. He also mentioned that one of the girls had asked to cheat off me. Relieved I simply agreed. He went on to rant about how it's not fair to the American students because eventually we were going to have to compete with them for jobs and they were trying to take the easy route while we worked hard for our accomplishments.
I walked away feeling relieved but regretted the fact that I hadn't come forward myself and told my professor.

Stephanie said...

A situation which seems to continuously arrive where I feel I cant voice my opinion is in my mothers choice in men. Now I know she has not always agreed with some of the men I have been with, but personally I don't think the guys I get with are half as bad as some of the low life schmucks she gets with sometimes. I hate to say it but my mother can really lower her standards sometimes when it comes to men, and I think the reason is that she just can't be alone. There have been 2 guys in particular she has been with who I couldn't stand, but I could never bring myself to tell her she was dating assholes. He ex boyfriend was by far the worst. He was this short, Ghetto fabulous, tattooed from head to toe, wannabe thug/rapper. To top it off he was like 10 years younger than her, never had a real job because he sold drugs all his life, crazy jelous, and also showed abusive tendencies. When he moved into my house with my mom he basically depended on her because he kept loosing every job he got. He was a looser rapper who thought he was going to make it so big, so all he did all day was smoke weed and write songs. He would fight with my mother all the time, and would grab her and scream at her in the middle of the street. We had a pit bull and one time he peed on the floor and my moms boyfriend beat the dog so bad that he was screaming like a person and was bleeding from his nose. I think I can safely say I hated this man. He was scum, but I could never tell my mother that. I knew that if I did it would probably just start a fight between us. I used to try to speak to her about another scumbag she was dating before this one and every time I did we would fight, so I figured it was no point in going through the same thing over this guy. I didn't want no immature asshole come between the wonderful relationship me and my mother had, and I know that telling her that her boyfriend was a dick was just going to bring friction between us. Luckily she finally left his bum ass and after she did I was able to admit to her what a douche I thought he was.

Laurent said...

I met Alex in my freshman year of high school when he moved to my hometown from out west. We had biology class together, ninth period, at the end of the day. We weren’t close friends at first, just casual acquaintances who did some biology projects together.

Since he was the new kid, he desperately wanted to make friends. I found him to be very personable. He was funny, perhaps a bit eccentric, but very smart. I thought he would fit in just fine with my classmates. However, many students in my school did not feel the same because they found Alex to be too “different” for their liking.

Both guys and girls in my biology class bullied Alex for half a year. Since a majority of these students were eighteen and nineteen year old kids that failed several times, I found them to be aggressive and downright intimidating.

Girls would snicker about his clothes, which were a little outdated, but nothing to gossip about. A couple times, one of the guys would trip Alex on purpose or talk about his funny accent behind his back. All of this was extremely immature, but since Alex never reacted to them, they continued to do it.

I was so upset for him, but too scared to say anything. One of the guys in the class, Anthony, was notorious for beating up other students if they crossed him. I shouldn’t have let this get to me, but I figured the taunting would eventually stop. It didn’t, however. Our teacher intervened at the mid-point of the year and the tormentors stopped nagging him, but the damage was already done.

It was like the bystander effect, letting someone else do it for you. I was thinking, “great, my teacher stepped in, I don’t have to worry anymore.”

Alex was sensitive and turned to the wrong group of people for friends. I got to know him better over time, but he wanted nothing more than drugs and alcohol. He always said he was fine. He used his humor to cover up his sadness.

When he got to college, he dropped out first semester after attempting to kill his best friend and commit suicide. He dropped out of sight and did not keep in contact with anyone.

I am ashamed I did not stand up for him. I know I would have wanted someone to defend me from belligerent people. He fooled his family into thinking he was happy kid. Many students at school knew he was lonely and very confused. The fact that I wanted the situation to disappear so I wouldn’t have to think about it is something I am not proud of. I couldn’t confront what was happening because I believed that getting involved would cause negative impact on my happy lifestyle.

Zuri said...

After raking through memories and instances in my life where I could have or should have spoken up and voiced my opinion but didn't; it makes me feel as if I am a timid person. And now, in retrospect, I am questioning why I made the decisions I did then.

One instance I can think of is when I was driving with my younger brother. It was dark and late in a not so great neighborhood. We stopped at a red light and heard yelling, screaming and someone whimpering. My brother and I both scanned the intersection to see where the sounds where coming from. The noise was coming from a man yelling in the face of a woman who was crying as a result. He shook her a little and held on to her and just kept yelling without taking a breath. All I did was watch and stare. I felt something in my stomach. Something that was telling and egging me on to call the police. But, all I did was look at the street signs to know where we were and contemplate whether or not to make the call. As the light turned green and I drove off. All I did was turn to my brother and say, "Lock your door."


Another instance, that really disturbs me when I think about it hits closer to home.In high school, I had a close friend, she could even be considered a best friend. We would talk to one another about boys,family, things going on in each others lives. She didn't have high self esteem and would always look to boys or her significant other at the time to help boost her self esteem and confidence within herself. And whenever anything went wrong with a guy she would call me to talk to me about it.

Well, one day I got a call from her saying that things had gone wrong with a boy who she had been dating for a significant amount of time. She was deeply hurt by the whole situation. She revealed to me that she was cutting herself on a regular basis and now she felt as if she just wanted to kill herself. (Typing this makes it seems so much more real and serious then it did in the moment.)
Instead of calling her mother or someone who would know how to handle the situation better than I ever could I went to her house and tried to calm her down. We spoke and had dinner with her family. The next day she seemed fine. She seemed like any other high school girl who had been disappointed by a guy she liked. A few weeks later I mentioned the cutting thing to her to make sure she was doing better and asked her if there was anything that she wanted to talk about. She said that she cuts herself when things get bad but she can handle it and deal with it. She got really defensive and shut down about the whole topic completely.

Again, another one of those thoughts, similar to the one I had when I looked at the streets signs crossed my mind. I thought maybe I should speak to her parents or tell someone. But,I never did.

In retrospect, thinking about these things and moments when I could have spoken up and didn't it makes sense to have said something. But, it always seems in certain situations something happens when you justify not saying anything or just don't say anything without justification.

cfinn129 said...

I have known my best friend, Sandy, for years. Probably since before we were in sixth grade. We have grown apart a little since I have been at New Paltz, but I still consider her my best friend.

I recently had a friend tell me that Sandy's boyfriend had cheated on her. I was taken back a little and didn't know what to think about what my friend just told me. I said, are you sure? With who? When? All my friend told me was that it happened, and she couldn't tell me with who or when.

Sandy has been going out with her boyfriend for over two years, and he cheats on her? I'm not a fan of some of the people he surrounds himself with, and what they do behind their girlfriends backs, but I always thought that Sandy's boyfriend was one of the good guys.

I asked my friend if she was sure? She said she was positive, and that she found out from her boyfriend who is good friends with Sandy's boyfriend. She begged me not to tell Sandy, but I told her I couldn't make any promises.

I wasn't sure if I should believe my friend or not, because she and her boyfriend are not the most credible sources. My friend basically told me nothing, no facts, no information, what if it didn't even happen?

I talked to my roomate about it and she said that I should tell Sandy, and that I wouldn't be a friend if I kept it from her.

I talked to my mom about the situation and she said that I shouldn't tell Sandy, because I didn't know enough. I wasn't sure what to do. Ultimately I knew I had to make the decision for myself.

I debated for weeks about what I should do. Should I tell her? Should I not? Is it even true? Is it just a rumor? Did I even know enough to tell her? Did she know already? Was she living in denial? There were a lot of different Ideas running through my head.

I never told Sandy what our friend told me that day, and honestly till this day I still think about telling her. Every time I see her boyfriend I feel like I look at him differently.

I don't know why I didn't tell her, I guess I did, and still do fear the consequences. I am afraid of ruining her relationship with her boyfriend or our friendship.

Thereal2008 said...

So this one night a friend and myself, (both who happened to be of color) were pulled over in Metairie La. on our way back to New Orleans La. coming from the club.
My friend was the driver, he was not speeding or anything to that nature.(Honestly) So all of a sudden we see flashing lights behind us, we at first didn’t even think the cop car was after us! It wasn’t until we heard him on a loud speaker type thing saying "pull the fuck over." (Oh, and my friend drives a silver BMW as well.) So we pull over all nervous and shit wondering what in the hell was going on. The cop comes to the car and asks "whose car is this," and my friend responds "mine's Sir." He demanded his license and registration and after he found out it was his car, he made us get out the car and put our hand behind our back and handcuffed us. I knew he had no right to do this but out of fear I said nothing. The cop proceeded to search the car for what, we had no idea of. He asked where were we going and we told him back to our College, (Southern University at New Orleans at the time) he didn’t believe us and wanted to see our college ID's. I knew the cop had no right to search the car but I said nothing again, out of fear. My friend however did say something. His mother is a cop and he asked "why are you searching my car," the cop told him not to back talk him and then my friend told him his mother was a cop. He radioed in his mother’s name and found out she really was a cop and let us go "with a warning." My friend was really upset about the situation, I commend him for saying as much as he did say because I didn’t have the courage to, thinking this cop may shoot me on the side of the road and leave me for dead.
These types of things are not uncommon where I’m from.

Thereal2008 said...

In My situation, what prevented me from saying anything was fear, I can’t say the same for others because I am not in their shoes. I to this day wish I had the guts to stand up to that cop, but the fact is I didn’t.

Jesse Ordansky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesse Ordansky said...

Someone close to me has an alcohol problem (we'll call him bob for the sake of obnoxious pronouns). It has a major impact on both his life and the people in his life. He is now in therapy and getting much more responsible with his alcohol consumption. His attitude is better, his social life is better, and he seems like a much happier person in general.

Unfortunately, about once or twice a month I'll notice Bob acting strange. His speech is slurred and his logic is senseless. Bob is clearly drunk...

When I am in Bob's house I find unusual things: empty 40oz bottles, beer cans, cheap wine bottles, etc... These items are not out in the open of course. They are carefully hidden behind dressers, in couch cushions, and in innocuous-looking bags.

What do I say? He IS going to therapy, he IS getting better, and he IS trying. He just slips up sometimes. I know I should tell him that drinking will do more bad than good, considering his past. But I have a feeling he would just brush it off as if he already knows. I like to think that he already knows... but I'm not sure.

I'm not sure WHY I don't just say something. Every reason I come up with seems to be an assumption based on his personality and mannerisms. Will it help? Will he take it to heart? I have no idea... and I don't know what's keeping me from finding out.

Anonymous said...

In one of my internships I had a very negative experience with one of the gentlemen (I'll call him Jeff) that worked there. I was introduced to Jeff, an older Caucasian man, early on in the internship and we exchanged a very short conversation where he asked me where I was from and what I was studying in college. After this conversation Jeff felt that because my parents came from the Dominican Republic I was responsible for knowing who the most important/influential Dominican man is. Although my parents are Dominican I do not identify with that community, so I really didn’t care who the person was.
For the next three weeks every time he saw me he felt the necessity to get EXTREMELY close to me and ask if I knew who this "important" man was. Once he even told me that I had to write him a 3 page paper on this Dominican figure by the next day. I didn’t write the paper but surely he did ask me over and over. After three weeks of telling Jeff that I didn’t know and trying really hard to communicate nonverbally that I didn’t care, he backed off. Although in writing this may not seem like a huge deal, it was very uncomfortable for me to walk into the morning meetings, or walk past his desk knowing that he was staring me down. I think it was very unprofessional of Jeff to assume that because I am Dominican I would know or even care about influential Dominicans and attack me about it ALL THE TIME. I never spoke to anyone in the office about this because I didn't really think that others would see the big deal. I also never found out what his job title was. The reason why I didn’t have the courage to confront him or turn to anyone else was that I feared losing the internship. I was also afraid that people would see as the sensitive intern, who made something out of nothing. When I first got the position several men in the newsroom told me not to be sensitive to their foul language or perverse jokes. Another reason was because I was so worried about getting connections and that bringing this to anyone’s attention would hinder my chances of walking away with any.
I must admit that it bothers me to this day that I didn’t have the courage to let him know how uncomfortable he made me feel. I was so relieved when he got tired of asking me the same question but I was still very bothered when he sat near during meetings. My thoughts of the internship are definitely tainted because of this experience and I can’t believe I was so intimidated by this man.

Jess said...

Deciding to write about this particular situation was really hard for me, because it is so personal, I didn’t know how to begin or even if I wanted to be so open with the class. It was either talking about something life altering for many people, or something trivial. My act, or lack of courage is hard to explain.
I’ve become very close with some of the people in my uncle by marriage’s side of the family. So close that in fact I consider this person one of my very good friends, but he shouldn’t be. I first met him at a wedding and he was drunk, but I didn’t think anything of it, he’s celebrating our cousin as well as his return home from being away for four years with the Navy.
We began to hangout and talk more and more, and he introduced me to his friends, which are now my friends as well. Every time we would hangout or go to a party, other people would have a few casual drinks, but he would get wasted, cause a scene and just do stupid things. No one said anything about his drinking.
One night, he pulled a knife out on our mutual friend, Matt and held it across his neck. I sat there along with everyone else in shock about what just happened. Matt obviously freaked out on him, and Brian went storming out into the woods. It took an hour to find him. And again, no one said anything.
He stayed away from the house for a few weeks, because Matt was still angry. But, he came back. Over the next few months, he still drank and would tease me or push me around playfully. But then something set him off and he began to verbally attack me and be rough. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t know how to. Our friends tried to talk to him, but Brian just didn’t listen. He didn’t believe them.
I kept on making excuses for him because he still was trying to adjust to civilian life, and when he is not drinking, he is one of the nicest people in the world and family, I didn’t want to lose him as a friend.
At the end of the summer was the final straw. As people were taking him upstairs to “sleep it off,” he stopped and punched me in the face.
Apparently I reminded him of an old girlfriend, but that doesn’t matter. The next day he saw my face and everyone told him either the alcohol or the friendship. I still said nothing.
He apologized immensely, but I was so hurt I just sat there. He apologized every time he did something stupid, the meaning was lost, as well as our friendship.
I sometimes run the situations leading up to that night over and over again in my head, and I feel if I had said something sooner, or our friends did, it wouldn’t have gotten to that point. We could have tried to help him more instead of making up excuses for him, and no one would have gotten hurt in the end.

Kilani L. said...

I've been in a few situations were I should have spoken up, but failed to. One that sticks out in my mind was 13 years old. It happened to be the day of September 11th.

I had been picked up early from school that day. Traffic was backed up for hours and the trains weren't running, so considering that i didn't live too far from my school my mom and i walked home. During the walk home my mom stopped in a nearby store and i didn't really want anything so i decided to stand and wait for her outside. As i was standing there, a middle eastern woman was walking holding her tiny daughter's hand. This huge man walked up behind her and said "I should punch you in your face for what you did". It was apparent that he was referring to the terrorist attack. The woman just looked at him in shock. I did too.

All i could think was how ignorant he was to have said such a thing especially in front of the woman's young child.How could he assume this woman had anything to do with what happened? I look back on it and think that i should have said something like "don't say that or leave her alone" but I think in my 13 year old state of mind i was just scared because i didn't know what this man might be capable of.I really wish i had thought about the bigger picture of how disrespectful his comment was, and not about what might have happened if i had said something in defense of the woman.

Gina Marinelli said...

I am in a situation where I would like to speak my opinion, but I probably won’t. I’m too scared of what kind of response I will get. One of my best friends has recently told me that she and her boyfriend are engaged to be married sometime next year. I have known my friend for nearly my entire life. She is more like a member of my family. I would love to be totally thrilled about her engagement but I think she may be making a huge mistake. Over the past few years, she has gradually distanced herself from her family for a number of reasons, but mostly because her lifestyle doesn’t fall in line with her family’s strict Muslim ideologies. She no longer speaks with her parents. Since my sister and I aren’t around very often, I feel like the only family she thinks she has is her boyfriend’s. So how could I ever say to her that I think he’s a loser? Besides his very shady past (that I’m not very convinced is still in the past), he comes with truckloads of baggage including a child from a previous relationship. My friend is an extremely smart girl. She has been pushing herself in school and work since before high school with the hopes of attending law school someday. She finally started law school this fall and is still struggling to work a full-time job. I fear that she may never reach her dreams if she sells herself short in this marriage. She is only a year older than me and will already have to take on the role of a stepmother, as well. Truthfully, it may not even be my place to tell her what I think about her boyfriend. As my best friend (basically another sister to me) I want to protect her and only want the best for her, but I know if I ever told her how I felt she may see it as an attack and just cut me out of her new life all together. I’m trying to give this situation the benefit of the doubt. I want to be a good friend but I’m not sure if that means supporting her no matter what or warning her before it’s too late. I’d like to think that people can always surprise you for the better, and I’m hoping her fiancĂ© will be one of them.

JoshWhite said...

This story dates back a while, way before I really knew anything about love, death, etc. I was a victim of the often televised teenage dillusion of "true love." The kind of "love" that despite all of your other's shortcomings, you press on, headstrong, because you are in love with an idea, not a person.
So I was dating a girl. She was pretty but she was downright mean to almost everyone she encountered. A couple of examples: Her parents were absolutely wonderful people. They were honestly some of the nicest people I've ever met. However, they showered their daughter with a little too much kindness and money for the amount (or lack thereof) of respect and kindness they received in return. It seemed to be a daily occurrence that she would be absolutely nasty to her mom and dad, despite them showing nothing but absolute love for her.
One time I was with her in a store in the mall and as she was at the register buying something. Some change fell out of her purse and she picked it up. She left a penny on the ground and the girls behind her picked up the penny. She confronted the girls about it, assuming that they were planning on keeping it. They then said it was their's (most likely in response to the absurdity of yelling at someone over a penny). When she was done with the transaction, she pushed her was through the girls and called them "whores." I thought this was unnecessary.
At my prom, she was nasty again to almost everyone there, most of them, my friends. This contributed to the prom being an absolutely miserable experience for a lot of people, especially me.

There are countless more of these types of stories; all with the same common element: Her being mean- and me being quiet.

I am of the belief that a lot of good can happen in the world if we are all good to each other. Spreading a positive attitude is something that I have tried to do my whole life. While dating this girl, I put it on hold.

I remeber half-subconcious debates with myself over how she was mean but I didn't want to say anything, break up with her, or even admit to myself that she was wrong for me because I lacked the courage to say that she was not the perfect person that my idea of love made her to be.
I contradicted my own personal values because I didn't have the strength to stand for what I believe.

tthomp said...

Last semester I was hired to work in the resident halls. Over the course of the spring, I had my fair share of dealing with drunk students at the early hours of the morning.

There was one night when I woke up at 3 am to the sounds of screaming in the hallway. So I jumped out of bed and went to find it was my co-worker's brother and his girlfriend screaming at each other. I tried to stand in between them and calm them down, but then she ran at him and started slapping him in the face. Then she jogged down the hallway to her room.

I told him to go too his room, but instead he followed her, running past me to catch up. He then took her by the arms and slammed her against the wall. He then put his hands on both sides of her head, and hit it twice against the wall.

I was horrified, and forceful told him to get away from her. He let her go and she ran down the hall and down the stairs to the bottom floor.

I was so shaken by the fight that all I knew to do was to call the senior staff member that had worked with me earlier that night. It just happened to be the brother of who was in the fight.

When he came up and I told him what had happened, I asked him that shouldn't we be calling someone for help, like UPD. First told me to wait, until it was all under control.

I handled the girl and got her back in her room, and her tried to handle his brother. All the while I keep thinking, I know we should call someone about this. I knew I was in over my head, but I thought following his lead would help later down the road.

Later on, around 6 am when it all calmed down I asked him again what should we do. I knew it got physical and he knew it, even if he didn't see it. All he said to me was to just write it up as a noise violation and nothing else.

Sitting across from him I just stared. I couldn't bring myself to verbally disagree, and my silence became my agreement. He was my senior staff and I just followed him, even though I knew he was just protecting his brother.

In the end, I was only able to speak up after she found an inaccurate report of the incident in our two different stories. Both of us came very close to loosing our jobs.

I knew that I lost all trust in him. He wasn't my co-worker or my friend anymore. He became the guy that almost got me fired, and was never sorry about it.

Nicole said...

After reading through everyone's post, I finally decided to write about what I originally wanted to post, but I felt a little scared to do so.

About a year and a half ago, I reconnected with an ex-boyfriend of mine. We dated when we were in high school (he was a year older than me), and once he went away to school we lost touch and we both moved on with our lives. He was always a party-type of guy, and liked to do extreme things.

We started hanging out a lot, and spent the summer of 2007 together almost every day. He constantly had parties at his house and I would limit myself to only one or two drinks and leave late in the night. However, he would argue with me that I was "too drunk" and that I had to spend the night. Most of the time I would sneak out and drive home (completely sober), because I have NO tolerance for people who drive drunk. He would stay mad at me for a few days, get over it, and the whole situation would repeat the following weekend.

It wasn't until we had been hanging out for a few weeks that my friends confessed they weren't very fond of him. I had disconnected myself from them and started hanging out with all of his friends. They are all the same. There were always drugs and alcohol surrounding them, and it just wasn't the type of environment I was comfortable in. I realized that I had been brainwashed by him to think that this was how "fun" happened. Fights started happening on a daily basis and my friends desperately tried to get me to stop hanging out with him.

I kept hanging out with him and thought that the fights were just stupid drunken arguments he started. It wasn't until one night that he came at me and attempted to hit me that I realized I needed to take a stand. I told him how I felt and how he was no good and I didn't deserve someone treating me the way he was. I left his house and never returned. I drove straight to my friends house hysterically crying and realized that they were the support I needed.

I should have stopped hanging out with him sooner and opened my eyes and realized how many people actually cared about me and didn't want to change my life.

Joseph said...

Truthfully this story is too complicated for a blog post and needs to me to explain it personally. Though it is a perfect example of how not standing up or saying something can have dire outcome.

My Best friend Dana was dating a kid names Rob. He was older then us at the time. We were all 17 and 18 when he was 21. Only way I could describe Rob was the coolest guy ever. He had that James Dean quiet rebel feel. If you ever told him that he would be mad cause that who he is naturally and he is not pretending to be anyone.

Rob became real close with our friends. He was like a missing piece that finally was found. However, we always knew something was wrong. Dana knew more then us being his girlfriend. It took me a while to realize the events coming were almost impossible to stop. We began to realize after many months that Rob was depressed more severely then anyone knew. But when your 17 and 18 you just don’t think, maybe we should tell his parents or call a place that could really give him help. Rob drinking increased, but at 18 back then everyone drank and we just figured when you turned 21 you drank all the time. That feeling of being naive is something I will never allow to happen again. It was December 14th a day I will never forget. Rob didn’t come home the night before and his family started to get worried about him. Rob randomly did things like this but he always came back. A day goes by and we finally found out where Rob had gone. Rob killed him self by jumping off the Mid-Hudson bridge, he strapped bag and a note inside a plastic bag so people could find and read it. Rob was depressed beyond what anyone knew. For one week after there was about 10 of us sitting together all having our worlds destroyed and feeling like what happen. Too this day I wish I stood up and helped Rob cause maybe he would still be here. We all carry this scar and visit his grave every year. Rob would of been 26 this year.

Brittany O'Hara said...

My best friend from home who I have been friends with since we were about two is in a horrible situation and has been for years.

We both have been in long term relationships with our boyfriends..for about 4 years. Her relationship on the other hand is completely unhealthy. Her boyfriend is this druggie loser who runs her life.

I can only see her on saturday's now because thats the night that he dj's. He doesnt like me because there was a few times that I stood up to him so therefore I was cutoff from her unless he doesnt know shes seeing me. I love my friend dearly and every single day I worry if I am going to get a phone call that something horrible has happened.

The first year of there relationship was perfect but every year he gets progressively worse. He has hit her, broken her windshield(numerous times), broken into her house, rigged her car so it couldnt turn on( so she couldnt go anywhere when he went to puerto rico), went crazy on her at her school and place of work.These are just a few things that he has done. He is physically and extremely mentally abusive to her.

In the beginning when I noticed he was an ass I didnt really say anything to her because I just felt like it wasnt my place.She is an extremely smart girl so i figured she would figure it out.

No, not even close. I'v been telling her for 3 years that she needs to get rid of him and i know its hard but its for the best and she says she knows but hes always still around. The dilemma that I have is that I want to tell her parents about what is going on because they could finally end it...but her parents are divorced and a very nasty divorce at that.

they are extremely hard to talk to now..I have literally driven to there houses on numerous occasions and coudlnt go inside. I do not know what the hell is wrong with me..Its my best friends well being at stake.

At times I feel as if she will be really mad at me if I went to her parents since she really doesnt get along with them anymore. I really dont want her to cut me off from her life cause than he will have full control and she will never get out.

Chris said...

The only time that I feel that I lacked the courage to speak up in a situation was when I had the choice to choose between living with my mother or my father when they got divorced. If I chose to say with my mom, it would mean moving to New York at the age of 12 without knowing anyone that I would be going to school with and having my mother dragged into an extremely ugly custody battle. If I chose to stay with my father I would be living in a comfortable and known environment, and going to school with all my friends. The reason I felt that I didn't have the courage to speak against living with my father was due to the fear that my mom would be put in a tough situation. I ended up staying with my dad and still wonder what would have happened if I made a different decision had I been more courageous.

Alyssa D'Angelo said...

After reading all of these posts I realize that I have had it pretty easy through out my life. I can't really think of a time where it was really hard for me to speak my mind. I've pretty much been able to say whatever I want. However, Then I remembered one time during my freshman year when a good friend of mine set a small fire outside my room. The RD of the building went crazy trying to find out who did it, and well, so did I. Because I didn't have the power to get anyone in trouble the people involved were much more willing to tell me who set the fire, and naturally I found out first. Within the next few weeks everyone was buzzing and we were all being questioned by the RD of the building, the cops, and our peers. We were threatened with various punishments if they found out we knew and didn't tell, and it was all quite nerve racking. On one hand I was dealing with a close friend, and on the other hand I was dealing with my own potential safety. I was literally stuck, I knew it would be the right thing to just tell the RD who did it, but at the same time, I am not a snitch, what kind of friend would I be if i told. And really what kind of trouble could I really get in, nothing too intense ,I wasn't even in the building when it happened. By this time everyone knew that I knew who it was and they were basically waiting to see if I would snitch. I still hadn't made up my mind about what I should do and email after email was sent out to the whole building basically threatening us if they didn't out who it was. Then my friend who set the fire walked into my room extremely upset because he realized what he had caused. He wanted my advice about whether or not he should come forth and take responsibility for his actions, or if he should just pray no one tells on him. I told him it wasn't fair that he was putting me in such a compromising situation that could potentially jeopardize my ability to live on campus. I ended up telling him that if he didn't come clean I was going to. I also told him that the consequences would be much less if he told on him self, rather than them just finding out. I honestly don't think I would have ever told on him, but I also don't think there was any possible way I could have gotten him to turn himself in. I still don't know what I should have done in the beginning, but I do feel the situation turned out to be a win, win. I didn't have to snitch and my friend suffered minor consequences and is still allowed to live on campus. He would have most likely been kicked off had i told.

ChelseaC said...

I know this is a little late but I had trouble coming up with a story that wasn't lame. When I say that I honestly had trouble thinking of a situation, I don't mean for it to sound as if I am a phrenamos or anything. I just honestly can't remember a serious enough situation where I didn't step up and say something. So my story is actually different because I did say something when I shouldn't of and I didn't have the courage to swallow my pride and keep my mouth shut.

So my father and I have a very interesting relationship. He calls me everyday no matter what. I know he loves me very dearly and only wants the best for me but sometimes he pressures me to be a golden child. I know it doesn't sound bad at all, but the pressures he put on me as a young adult made my life very stressful. I have always been a natural athlete ever since a young age and played four sports while growing up.

My dad is a huge sports fanatic and always has been. When he was younger, he was too skinny to play competitive sports and therefor was on the sideline dying to compete. So when I cam along, he got to relive his childhood as a standout athlete and by god he did. He taught me everything he knew about each sport I played and from what I learned, I excelled. I won so many awards, ribbons, and trophys with his direction and my coaches help.

So you might ask well what is so wrong with that? Well no matter how good I did, after the event was over he would critique me on what I did wrong and tell me what I needed to do better. He would tell me I did good but the amount of negative comments vastly overshadowed that of positive ones. Not only with sports, he would hound me about my grades as well.

So I would make subtle but not so subtle comments about how it bothered me but he would just brush them off. See my father and I are both very competitive but also stubborn. This is why we butt heads a lot. One day, last year after a basketball game where I had played the best yet in my college career, he again went to critique me. Basically I lost my shit. I started screaming at him and telling him how much he sucked as a father. I will admit I was way too harsh on him in this conversation and as I look back on it, wish I had handled it differently. I just had too much pride to admit that what I said was wrong.

In reaction to this conversation, my dad was deeply hurt. He was flabbergasted and caught very off-guard. He basically crawled said he was sorry for failing me as a dad and that he would leave me alone and stop calling me so much.

And as it turned out, karma is a bitch and bit he hard. About a week after this conversation I had another conversation with my father but it wasn't about that. My dad had just found out that he had stage four cancer of the lymphatics in his throat.

After learning this, I cried to him begging him for forgiveness and that I loved him and I was a stupid asshole and didn't realize how damn selfish I was being and that I didn't realize how good I actually had it. He of course accepted my apology. He is still alive today and has gone through some pretty rough times but has eased off on pressuring me and him and I are getting along better than ever.

Life is too short. Speak up when you should, keep your mouth shut when you should, and just appreciate the love in your life.

Is Media Ethics Education DOA?

It sounds like a joke Jay Leno would tell during his opening monologue on The Tonight Show. Hear about the graduate students at the prestigious journalism school? They got caught cheating on an ethics exam. Ha ha ha. Except that’s actually what happened at Columbia University in late 2006.

Students had been given 48 hours to sign onto a Columbia Web site to take the final exam in a required course called “Critical Issues in Journalism.” They then had 90 minutes to answer two essay questions.

The students were warned to not discuss the questions with each other, but apparently they did. As the headline over a story reporting the scandal put it, “Ivy J-Schoolers Fail Ethics, Ace Irony.”

No one admitted cheating despite pressure from the school’s administrators and pleas from classmates, who feared the scandal would damage the market value of their degrees. Meanwhile, the teacher of the course, New York Times columnist Samuel G. Freedman, refused to comment. But if the disgruntled posts on RateMyProfessors.com are any indication, his students hadn’t exactly been soaking up knowledge. “Maybe he could e-mail his ‘speeches’ to the students instead of making everyone suffer through the most wasted class in j-school. . . ,” one read.

There’s an old cowboy saying that goes, “When your horse dies, get off.” Journalism ethics education is a dead horse. Or else those aren’t vultures circling in the sky.

A Question for Socrates


The question of how ethics is learned, or even if it can be, is as old as Western philosophy. In Plato’s dialog Meno the title character asks, “Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?” Of course, Socrates, being Socrates, resists giving a definite answer. But we can’t. The sad fact is, students had better get an effective ethics education now or they may never.


Last summer I conducted an ethics workshop for some reporters and editors at the Poughkeepsie Journal, a small daily in upstate
New York owned by Gannett Co., Inc. The woman in charge of organizing the workshop had supplied us with several case studies to examine. I remember one dealt with a classic conflict of interest, a copy editor who moonlighted at a local radio station.

But what I remember most is the air of defeat that clung to the staff as we sat on hard plastic chairs in the break room discussing the cases. I could hear in their voices the bitterness and cynicism of employees forced to follow corporate policies they despised. Recently, for example, the paper had started running display ads on the front page and section fronts, a much more grievous ethical lapse, their mumbled asides suggested, than anything the case studies might have to offer.

I don’t want my students to ever wear the gray, defeated expression I saw that day on the faces at the Journal. But given the downward direction in which the media are moving, and fast, how in the world can I prevent it from happening?

Teaching Media Ethics by Telling Stories

A friend of mine who teaches at a big Midwestern university recounts in class the events of her first week as a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. She was sent to Duluth to cover Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey on the campaign trail. When they were introduced, Humphrey vigorously shook her hand. “Oh yes, Susan,” he said, “I read your stuff all the time.” He couldn’t have read her stuff, though; she hadn’t written anything yet. “Just a few words,” she explains to her students, “but words that taught this fledging reporter a great lesson about pols and the little lies they tell.”

I usually find occasion during the semester to quote I. F. Stone’s dictum, “Every government is run by liars and thieves, and nothing they say should be believed,” to make the same point. But Susan’s story makes the point better. That’s because it has existential force. Her story vividly captures in a way a secondhand quote can’t the realities of a reporter’s life.

Some might think telling “war stories” is a waste of precious class time. I’ve a colleague who didn’t want to fall into the “trap” of regaling students with stories ad nauseam (“which, let’s face it, is easier than teaching or grading,” he said). So one semester he kept track. When he toted it all up at the end, he was surprised that he’d used less than an hour - out of 45 – talking about his newspaper experiences. And yet, he admitted, it was his stories that students seemed to remember most.

“Stories teach us how to live,” Daniel Taylor said in his essay, “The Ethical Implications of Storytelling.” What he meant was that stories preserve our experience for contemplation and evaluation. Although not all stories carry a heavy message, there’s an entire category of stories, so-called “exemplary tales,” that are told to convey a moral.

Our war stories are potentially just such tales. They can provide evidence, in ethicist John Barton’s words, of “how real human beings live through various crises and trials and remain human.” My colleague who kept tabs on his storytelling has described his stories as cautionary. Most, he said, deal with “screwups I learned from.”

But sometimes the storyteller and the audience can’t agree on what exactly the moral of a story is.

When Susan was a cub reporter on the Tribune, she interviewed the Beatles, who were on their second tour of the States. She got into their hotel room by dressing up as a waitress in an ugly, mustard-colored uniform and accompanying an actual room service waiter upstairs. Ringo took one look at her little plastic name tag – it read “Donna Brown” – and snorted, “What kind of name is that?” The waiter nudged her in the side. “Tell them what you real name is,” he urged. She did, as well as her reason for being there. Rather than throw her out, the Beatles politely answered her questions. They even let her phone for a photographer. The next day her story ran on the front page, with a photo of John sitting at a table and looking up at her and laughing as she poured coffee in his cup. She still has a glossy print of that photo somewhere.

Many of Susan’s students think she’s nuts for not having the photo hanging up in her office. They also think she’s nuts for saying she’d never participate in the same kind of stunt today. To her celebrity-struck students, disguising herself as a hotel waitress to get an interview with the Beatles seems soooo cool. They lose all sight of the fact that it wasn’t a story of vital public interest that demanded undercover methods.

Susan intends one lesson when she talks about her hard day’s night, but her students, living in a paparazzi-saturated culture, draw another. “It may be a lost cause,” she remarked to me.

Or maybe not. Negotiations over what the point of a story is can be part of the point of the story. In the process of negotiating, we test different interpretations, try out different themes. This is helpful. This is educational. Lawrence Kohlberg, the Harvard psychologist famous for his research on the stages of moral development, contended that “the teaching of virtue is the asking of questions. . . not the giving of answers.” Stories don’t necessarily have to yield clear moral rules to be of value. It’s enough sometimes if they just give us something to think about.