Saturday, December 09, 2006

Foley Panel: Pattern of Willing Ignorance


Republican lawmakers and aides left male pages vulnerable to Rep. Mark Foley's improper sexual advances even though the first concerns surfaced more than a decade ago, the ethics committee said Friday in a report into an election-year scandal that convulsed the House. [...]

The panel said it found no evidence that any current lawmakers or aides violated any rules, and recommended no sanctions. But it said it discovered a pattern of conduct on the part of many individuals "to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences" of Foley's conduct.

This is no surprise since it matches the patterns exhibited by so many people who don't want the mess that comes from learning something that will be a disruption. So they see the warning signs and do as little as possible about it. If they tell someone else about it, even if they minimize it as they do so, they give themselves a free pass from further responsibility.

This willfully ignorant pattern also creates a defacto approval of the behaviors which are ignored or dismissed as nothing important. So in a way those who were willfully ignorant taught Rep. Mark Foley that what he was doing was no big deal. Every time they looked the other way, they nourished Rep. Foley's rationalizations.

It's also significant that even though there was a clear pattern of failing to proactively look out for the best interests and safety of the pages, there will be no punishment for any of those who made choices which left children vulnerable.

This too is a pattern. Willful ignorance is unethical and enables harmful behavior, but because those who practice it violate the spirit of the rules while navigating around the letter of the rules, they are in fact rewarded for doing so.

This sends a message to the next person who sees hints of troubling behavior. If you ignore those hints you might be criticized, but you won't be punished. Personal responsibility is only for perpetrators and victims.

This isn't much different in thought process from the rapists who use alcohol on their intended victims so they can claim they would have stopped if she'd said no. Both groups learn the rules and then exploit all of the loopholes and areas where those who would judge them will say what they did was unclear, negligent but not criminal, or was the victim's responsibility.

Whenever we react to troubling behavior with willful ignorance, we are enabling that behavior.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:45 AM   0 comments links to this post


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