After the Fact: Closing the gate


You’ve heard the expression about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted?  It’s another way of saying we’ve “second guessed” a situation and found it wanting in definition, in clarity, in intent or just plain wrong. Now, as a rule, I don’t always check what I’ve written to be sure all the “t’s” are crossed and the “I’s” dotted, but when you’re putting yourself out there as some sort of expert in anything, you’d better know whereof you speak.

Without sharing an arbitrarily drafted “code of conduct” with members, the board of directors of a local non-profit organization held a “kangaroo court” and revoked the privileges of one member. So far as I know, it was a first such action in the history of the organization. The following day, this heretofore unseen “code” was taped to a wall that is seldom viewed. It was in the smallest type possible in order that all provisions appear on one page.

It would lend more credibility, when expecting compliance, if everything is spelled correctly, punctuated appropriately and the message presented in clear and concise language. “Non-discrimination on the basis of (among other things) status of a US Veteran” means absolutely nothing. How would I know who is and who is not a veteran without asking, and would asking be discriminatory? How would I know someone’s religion, national origin, or age without asking? Even my generation is on the younger side of having seen signs that said, “Irish Need Not Apply.”   

And on to “physical harassment,” including “unwanted touching” and “patting” that makes (anyone) feel “unease.” No more hugs or handshakes. Which might be a good idea since not everyone washes their hands before leaving the restrooms, and that definitely makes me feel uneasy.

But the one “misbehavior” that puzzled me most was the nebulous statement about “verbal harassment,” which specified “words or conversations intended to make another (person) feel shamed, fearful or unwelcome.” Is someone sitting there, listening to my conversations solely to determine “intent”? I’d be embarrassed to be known as “The Eavesdropper.” And our dog knows more about the “intent” behind what I say than most people could identify.

Finally, “It is strongly recommended that anyone with knowledge of violations report offenses.” And which child threw sand first? And will your friend say it wasn’t you? Will you tell the principal all about it and sign a complaint? 

In our efforts to eliminate abuse on the playground, we forget the “checks and balances”, the “he said” and the “she said.” As one person (I was going to say “old timer,” but that might be offensive) observed, “In 1944, 73,000 young American men stormed the beaches of Normandy under heavy fire. They waded to shore in the waves of blood of friends and brothers, knowing they could be next to fall. Now, we have young Americans who can’t go to work and have to seek counseling because the candidate they voted for wasn’t elected president.” Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”? 

To achieve a goal of “providing a place for (people) to come together”, rules and codes of conduct are drafted that are, in themselves, offensive and make me feel fearful and unwelcome. This “code of conduct” reminds me of advice given by the Cheshire cat: “If you don’t know where you want to go then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” 

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