Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong. Thomas Jefferson
Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud. - Sophocles
He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. - Walter Lippmann
I want to talk to you about something that really disturbs me. I am sure most of you are familiar with honor codes such as the street code of ethics, "The Blue Wall of Silence" (ironclad police rule) and the unspoken code of silence in journalism and sports. These are codes of ideology in which people do not snitch on other people committing crimes, breaking rules, or engaging in unethical practices. Those who live by such a code are seen to be honorable people who can be trusted to stand steadfast by their commitments even though their behavior supersedes doing what is right and, often, moral. Conversely, people who tell the truth and take responsibility for their actions are considered reprehensible snitches and rats.
For example, when Andy Pettitte testified to the congressional committee on drug use in baseball that Roger Clemens told him that he had used performance-enhancing substances, there was an immediate backlash of criticism and condemnation of Pettitte. He was called a snitch, a rat, and a dirty gutless bum by literally thousands of bloggers. Perhaps one blogger summed up the sentiments of most bloggers when he wrote, "Andy is a coward, a snitch and a rat. For God's sake, he rolled over on his own father. No one likes a rat; how can anyone have respect for this guy? All he had to tell investigators is that he did not know and that he couldn't remember Roger telling him anything. Instead, since he got caught using HGH, he felt that someone had to go down with him and that was Roger Clemens. Instead of manning up to it and taking the fall, he dragged his so called "best friend" down with him. What a friend. Andy Pettitte = snake." Yes! That sums it up nicely.
Now, from reading a prolific number of articles and blogs, I will admit that the way it looks I am in the minority on this issue. I accept that distinction whole heartily. I will also admit that the origin of "stop snitching" which originated in the late sixties was essential and beneficial for the survival of oppressed black people who were being harassed by the United States law enforcement authorities. However, in my opinion, what started out as something which was necessary and positive has evolved into something that is insidious and destructive. What is the honor in doing something that is dishonorable? It goes without saying that calling such behavior a code of honor is an oxymoron. At best it is a code of disgrace.
Personally, what Pettitte did was the right thing to do. In the midst of all the baloney and hot air, Pettitte refused to pay tribute to a ridiculous tradition of concealing facts for the sake of protecting a teammate who cheated and lied. Instead, he stood up and told the truth. "I have to live with myself," Pettitte said in his deposition. "And one day, I have to give an account to God -- and not to nobody else -- of what I've done in my life. And that's why I've said and shared the stuff with y'all that I've shared with y'all today -- that I wouldn't like to share with y'all." That's courage!
The idea that people who tell the truth are rats actually perpetuates immoral and corrupt behavior. To paraphrase Earl Ofari Hutchinson, all of you are doing by voicing this no snitching nonsense is saying; PLEASE KEEP OUR NEIGHBORHOODS, SCHOOLS, AND SPORTS TEAMS SAFE FOR MURDERS, THEIVES, CHEATERS, AND LIERS, because that is exactly what you are doing...creating a safe haven for thugs and cheaters. It seems to me that is the worst kind of self-destruction imaginable, and your self-destruction isn't just killing you; it's killing all of us.
Let's say just for the sake of argument that Clemens is guilty, which isn't a real stretch of the imagination, considering that just about every one in America thinks he is culpable. What honor is there in cheating, then lying about it, and worse yet, trying to ruin another man's character to save your own ass? That is cowardly...you do the crime, you do the time.
Let me ask you this too: if a person sees a rape or a crime being committed, should he just walk on by as if nothing is happening? I don't know about anyone else, but I'd rather take my chances for standing up for what is right, instead of having to live with the guilt of knowing I could have done something to help someone. If it means getting hurt to help another...well, so be it. I would rather be a rat, even a dead rat, than an accessory to a crime. I am also willing to chance speaking out about what is wrong in sports, academia and any other institution or individual who is debasing our way of life. Call me a snitch, a rat, a stool pigeon, an informant...call me what you will. I am willing to do all of that for only one reason - IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO!
When I was in college we had an honor code, a real honor code, which stated that a person should not at any time, any place or for any reason lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. In fact, we were obligated to turn in anyone who did not abide by the honor code. Everyone who agreed to the university's code of honor, which was everyone at the school, took that pledge very seriously. How serious...I will give you an example. One of my friends saw his best friend and roommate cheat on a test. In stead of reporting him to the instructor, he went to his roommate and told him to turn himself in. His roommate informed him that he had already turned himself in. This presented a problem for my friend because he had breeched the honor code. He should have immediately reported the incident to the instructor. Consequently, he had to go to the instructor and acknowledge that he had also breeched the honor code. As a result, they were both suspended from school. Neither my friend nor his roommate expressed any ill will towards the professor or each other because they both knew they had broken their code of honor, and they took full responsibility for their own behavior. That, too, is courage!
I'm repulsed by pathetic individuals looking the other way at wrong doing, teaching others to do the same, and categorizing those who have a sense of fairness and justice as rats and snitches. It is rather astonishing to me that children are being educated from a young age to honor these rather bizarre codes which in truth advocate dishonesty and corruption. Even more amazing is that the guiding principles of these codes have been embraced not only by young children, but also by adults who you would think would have enough common sense to see the absolute duplicity and hypocrisy in such a system. What you are doing is buying into this lie that you are better off letting thugs and liars go free because in some perverse distorted way you want to honor a code that supports deceit and dishonesty rather than integrity.
I will say it again, these bizarre and absurd codes are simply tactics that permit criminal and immoral behavior to proliferate, and I'm not buying into it...not for a second.
Yours in strength