Follow by Email

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Moral Dystopia": Angels Are Hard to Find

Some 40 years ago, I was traveling on the Chicago "L" when someone in the seat in front of me rose, pulled out a knife, and demanded my money. Everyone in the car saw it - the standoff lasted for several minutes - but no one did a thing. All went about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

Today, again writing about the Jerry Sandusky trial in her New York Times op-ed entitled "Moral Dystopia" (, Maureen Dowd begins by stating, "Everyone is good, until we’re tested." Pondering the inaction of those who witnessed Sandusky's conduct, Dowd writes:

"Inundated by instantaneous information and gossip, do we simply know more about the seamy side? Do greater opportunities and higher stakes cause more instances of unethical behavior? Have our materialism, narcissism and cynicism about the institutions knitting society — schools, sports, religion, politics, banking — dulled our sense of right and wrong?"

Although I agree with Maureen that we live in an era of narcissism, I think the unwillingness of most people to intervene when their interests, physical or material, are threatened is not new, as evidenced by my Chicago experience. Moreover, my own need to respond, at times exaggerated, stems from what occurred when one of my own children underwent abuse at school (see: I react in angry knee-jerk fashion owing to past trauma; I am no hero. I am often guided by a fury that overrides all cognitive processes.

Is Maureen Dowd any better than others? Consider how she traveled to Saudi Arabia in early 2010 (see: and hobnobbed with that country's royalty. Telling us that "after spending 10 days here, I can confirm that, at [the Saudis'] own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression," Dowd avoided mention of honor killings, child brides or women sent to prison and whipped after being gang-raped (see:

Sorry, Maureen, but angels are hard to find.


  1. You really don't have to answer, Jeff, but I will ask anyway. How did that standoff end? I hope that if I were a passenger on that train I would have intervened, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. During calm moments, I often conjure hypothetical circumstances so that I might act in a manner that I can be proud of, rather than having to learn something about myself that I don't want to know. Telling your story helps.

  2. Again, this occurred some 40 years ago, I behaved stupidly, and I was lucky to come away without a scratch. I have since been in worse situations, and no two situations have been alike. I don't pretend to have any expertise in handling these matters, and I don't dare counsel anyone regarding what he or she should do. Perhaps the best a bystander can do is to call for a policeman or transit cop, who are trained to handle these unpleasantries.