This I Believe

cynthia - denver, Colorado
Entered on September 25, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe

I got into a discussion in the lunchroom at work the other day, and ended up walking out, too frustrated to continue. That’s rare. My parting words were, “Now you’ve gone too far. You never know when to quit.” The next day, I exchanged hugs with my errant coworker. I’m not sure if the onlookers were more shocked by the argument, or by the kiss and make up hugging.

What was it that got me going? We were discussing a man in Boulder, Colorado who had been put on suspension for making fun of his employment on a blog. Should he be fired? Was he immature? Did his blog affect his ability to do his job? Do we have a right to say what we think when not at work? When does our job stop and life start? Does it matter that it was on the Internet? Does a boss have a right to snoop into our private lives and then get mad? Is trashing your boss secretly, and then denying it later, the right way to do it? Isn’t an “Internet Diary” an oxymoron? Don’t foolish people need work?

I said, “Maybe they should fire the person who found it there, too. ” I said, “It’s the principal of the thing. It’s a legal off-duty activity.” My coworker thought that was funny, ridiculously unrealistic. “Go ahead—tell Frank off, right now (as the boss walked in the lunchroom). What do you think will happen.?”, as if that justified its rightness. I didn’t say what I was thinking– “I already have told my boss off, more or less, and I’d do it again, job or no job, if the issue was important.”

A business ethics writer wrote an opinion in the paper this same week, about another workplace problem: “There are some laws that are so unjust that a person is justified in breaking them, but this is not one of them.” I thought—well that’s funny. Who gets to decide if a law is so unjust that we are justified in breaking them? He apparently thinks he can. Is it OK to break the rules and then lie about it? It happens all the time. I find it confusing. What part is wrong—breaking the rules, or lying? Or, breaking the rules and telling the truth? They want you to lie to them? I don’t think they really do.

The United States starts with a Constitution that memorialized our individual rights, by writing down the “common law” of humankind as they saw it. These individual rights form the basis for the authority and freedoms of our citizenship, more than money or success or capitalism. We have individual rights that are the envy of the world. Most Americans are afraid to even mention them these days.

This is what I believe. If you stop using a skill you loose it; if you stop teaching a tradition, then the tradition is lost. The truth stops being the truth if everyone is afraid. If we don’t speak out for each other, who else is going to do it?