Blow the whistle if you dare
Highlands Today"Tattletale, Tattletale, hang your britches on a nail," was a feared taunt in my childhood. We avoided being tagged a snitch, squealer, or stool pigeon. It was hard to discern when to tell the truth from when to remain mum. It still is, even for adults.
Published: May 13, 2010
Published: May 13, 2010
CNN carries a segment called "Keeping Them Honest." If a political candidate runs negative ads spouting so-called facts or statistics, if a company makes claims for a product, an analyst checks it out and exposes or verifies. On April 18, 2010, the "60 Minutes" program confronted two shysters selling false promises of healing to terminally ill patients. These unveilings help protect the public.
A more positive label for a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing is "whistleblower." It originated from the practice of English police officers, blowing their whistles for help and alerting bystanders of a crime. Despite protective laws, even promised confidentiality, whistleblowers experience repercussions. They may not be believed. They may be shunned and threatened. "Shoot the messenger" is still widely practiced by businesses, schools, churches and government.
Shaking individuals and institutions is never popular; it affects comfort zones and purses. Ancient words hold true: "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health" (Proverbs 12:18 KJV). And that brings us to the best reason behind being an instrument of revelation: to bring healing to a situation.
Mean-spiritedness and trickery are too often the modus operandi. Students at California State University searched a trash bin recently for details of an agreement with Sarah Palin regarding a speech. The press then printed her terms: first-class airfare; luxury hotel; two water bottles with bendable straws in her lectern. Quirky? Prima donna? Maybe, but hardly worth such subterfuge.
Diane Stafford, writing for McClatchy Newspapers, warned about routine questions in job interviews. When asked to tell about your worst boss, she says never take the bait. The safe response is: "I never really had an awful boss, but I've learned what kind of boss I appreciate." This is the time for diplomacy, not outings.
Just as children must learn the importance of truth, so must adults recognize the importance of speaking up. Andrew Young lied for former senator John Edwards, then blew the whistle in a tell-all book. Gov. Bob McDonnell claimed he overlooked the issue of slavery when he declared April Confederate History Month in Virginia. His noisy, rightly offended critics jarred his memory.
Allen Frances, helping create the next mental disorder manual for the American Psychiatric Association, demonstrates courage under fire. Drug companies, physicians, insurance companies, seekers of eligibility for disability and services, law enforcement, all have something to gain or lose by lines drawn between mental disorder and normalcy. Dr. Frances' conscience refuses to risk over-diagnosis, not a popular stance.
He is right. Sounding alarms is hard enough without self-guilt.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.