Tag Archives: morals

The Lies We Teach: in literature and in life

An attorney waves away illegal behavior, dismissing college students’ acts of falsifying business records, criminal impersonation and scheming to defraud as not belonging in the criminal justice system.  His reason, according to a Foxnews.com article, “You’re not talking about violent crime.  You’re not talking about drugs.”

So what are we talking about?  Affluent students paying others to cheat on their ACT and SAT tests so they can earn acceptance into college with better scores.

I call it theft.  These kids–the test takers and the ones paying for the good scores–are stealing seats in college classes from hard-working kids.  Potentially, they are stealing another child’s future.  No big deal, right?  I mean, it’s not drugs.

I call it disrespect.  For our justice system, for the very foundation of our equal-opportunity country, for the people who have died for our freedom to be more than.  For those students who bust their butts to overcome obstacles the cheaters never dream exist.  Again, nobody was hurt, right?  At least not physically.

I call it many things, but those words are nothing compared to what I call the adults who try to dismiss this behavior with a wave of their hands.

If a poor,  young black man used a fake ID, what do you think would happen?  I guarantee an attorney would feel compelled to prosecute this very illegal and criminal act.  Because, guess what?  It’s against the law to falsify documents and impersonate other people.

If a quiet young lady dressed in black wearing black lipstick and black fingernail polish with dyed, jet-black hair was busted for scheming to defraud, she’d find no sympathy from a tolerant attorney like the one above.

If my dyslexic son earned the best score on his ACT possible based on his struggle with a severe learning disability, he would still get bumped out of that Ivy League college because his best test score cannot compete with those who cheat.  It doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent.  It just means he can’t take a test as well as the cheaters can.

But, hey, no big deal.  Life isn’t fair and all that jazz.  I get that.

What I don’t get is why we perpetuate so many double standards.  A broken law is a broken law is a broken law.  Crime is crime, no matter if a poor person commits it or if the affluent use it to gain yet another upper hand when they already have so much.

And then I realized that writers utilize a great deal of these double standards.  It’s how we create tension and up the stakes.  We situationally condone our characters’ less than stellar behaviors, and readers buy into it because the end justifies the means.

It’s okay, Harry, you can sneak out of Hogwarts to track down that next clue.

Don’t worry about killing that werewolf, kidnapping that baby, slaying the bad guy, lying to the cops, running from the law, falsifying your passport, stealing that car, drinking your under-age self sick.  You’re in a tough spot and your heart is in the right place.

My question today is two-fold.  A) Is it possible to live in a black and white world where the law is always the law regardless of circumstances?  Where the poor mom shoplifting formula for her starving infant is just as guilty as the rich woman stealing ninety-nine cent fingernail polish for the rush it gives her or the young dude five-finger discounting condoms so he doesn’t get his girl preggers but is too embarrassed to take the package to the counter where his dad’s best friend works?  Yeah, that kind of black and white.

B) Is it possible to write a novel where the MC breaks no rules and his/her morality always remains in tact?  Do you even want to read a book like that?  How do you write/read a novel with elements that directly challenge your own personal beliefs? 

Curious minds want to know.