Standing up for "Principle" -Part 4:
Focus on your True Objective
It is important to stay focused on what you want to accomplish in life. Don’t think "winning" the scrimmage is necessarily the end you are seeking. Focus on your primary goal and don’t worry if it "appears" to others you have lost the scrimmage. Saddam Hussein (the ruthless dictator of Iraq) has clearly mastered this concept. For years the United States and Hussein have played a cat-and-mouse game. The scenario was predictable, if not comical. First, Hussein would refuse to cooperate with the United Nation’s mandate of letting inspectors look for weapons of mass destruction. Next, the U.S. would deploy an expensive military buildup and threaten retaliation if he didn’t cooperate. After a few weeks, when military buildup was complete, Hussein would "back down."
Hussein’s strategy was quite simple. Whenever the U.N. inspectors came close to discovering vital documents and equipment he had hidden, Hussein would announce he is no longer going to cooperate with the inspectors. After several weeks Hussein is "forced" to back down and cooperate. Although it appeared the United Nations had won, it was actually Hussein who had won. During the weeks the U.N. inspectors have been denied access, Iraq was busy moving and hiding the vital information and equipment.
In reality, I don’t think Hussein cares if the American newspapers say he was forced to back down. He accomplished his goal of protecting his weapons research. The so-called "embarrassment" of being forced to back down was a small price to pay to protect his interest. Although I think Hussein would have been pleased if the United States chose not to force him to comply with the UN resolutions, I don’t believe he expected the United Nations to let him off the hook that easily.
Most of you, at one time or another, have had a run-in with a bully. You probably have found that running away from the bully only attracts future confrontations with him and others. However, if you don’t back down, you usually discourage future confrontations from others in the future.
It is important to understand, however, there is a big difference between not backing down and aggressively pursuing a fight. Standing firm means you put the ball in their court (much like Jack did in the previous chapter) and force them to make the next move. Sometimes this results in an all-out fight, but usually your peaceful solution will make him think twice before he tries something like that again.
Doing this is difficult because our old nature cries out for justice. We may say to ourselves, "He has no right doing that to me. If I don’t retaliate, he will get away with it." While this may be true, so what! If you have discouraged this behavior against you in the future, you were successful. Cut your losses and get on with your life. You have to learn to count the cost and determine if something is worth the fight. You have to ask yourself if the end result is worth the cost? Besides, since God will still deal with them, they have not "gotten away with it."
I have recently had to contemplate such a decision. When I was getting my road paved, the county had to first put in a storm drain. In order to tie into the main drain, I had to sign an easement (30’ by 285’) to allow the drainpipe to run across the edge of my property.
It was very exciting to see all of the construction going on. Besides the county road workers, there were some minimum-security prisoners helping them (without my foreknowledge and approval). A couple days later a Correction Officer approached me and said he noticed I was taking pictures of the construction. He said he didn’t know if any of my pictures have prisoners in it, but the Department of Correction has a policy against it. He didn’t say anything more about it and I didn’t take any more pictures.
About a week later I was called to the Warden’s office where I work. He shut the door and began to question me about taking pictures of prisoners at the construction site. The Correction Officer had reported me to his Warden, who in turn wrote my Warden. The other Warden wanted me to be questioned and he also wanted me to be ordered to surrender the film. I explained to my Warden it was a mute point because the film was ruined when the camera door popped open. (I’m sure he had a hard time believing it, but it was actually true.) I went on to explain it was none of the other Warden’s business what I do on my own private property and personal time as long as I was not breaking the law.
Later on that day I started getting very angry. The other Warden was way out of line for three reasons. First, if I am off duty and am not breaking the law, I can take a picture of anything on my property I want. In such cases that Warden has no authority over me. He had opened himself up to a lawsuit for violating my civil liberties. I don’t think there is a jury that would rule against me taking pictures of my property in this situation.
Second, he tried making a non-work related issue a work-related issue. If he was unhappy with me taking pictures, he should have contacted me the same way he would have contacted any other person taking pictures. The fact I worked in a prison has no bearing on this situation. My neighbors had also taken pictures and he did not ask them to surrender their film. It’s a violation of Fair Labor laws to contact my employer about a non-work related issue and have me questioned about it on company time.
Third, the fact he wanted my employer to demand I surrender the film meant he wanted me to be disciplined for a non-work-related issue. He was trying to make my work environment hostile. He had opened himself up to a Hostile Work Environment complaint.
Before I show you how I determined my response, I want to tell you about another thing that made this situation even more irritating. The same week of this incident I saw a broadcast about a married couple who discovered a video of their sexual intimacy on the Internet. As it turned out, a neighbor in their apartment building had video taped them having sex, going to the bathroom, etc. He then made these videos available on the Internet. This type of secret videotaping is called splice or voyeur. When the couple went to the police, they were told even though their state has "Peeping Tom" laws, there are no laws against their neighbor taping them from his own apartment. What a contrast to what was happening to me.
As with most problems in life, there are multiple solutions. Some solutions produce beneficial results while other solutions produce undesirable results. The reason I'm including this incident in my book is because I wanted to demonstrate the process of determining your response. The first thing I did was go down my checklist.
1) Is there any actual damage? No.
2) Is there a need to defend myself? I wasn’t being disciplined so there is no need to defend myself.
3) How important is the actual issue in question? Although some civil liberty people could make a solid argument about the importance of this issue, this issue is not that important to me.
4) Is any action necessary to prevent this from happening again? Something needs to be done to let these Wardens know they have crossed over the line and this action will not be tolerated in the future.
5) Realistically, what would my actions actually accomplish? Apart from embarrassing these Wardens, there wasn’t much I could really expect from our grievance or legal system.
6) What would it cost to pursue it? Although it would cost me a couple thousand dollars for legal expenses, the largest liability would be the possible problems at work. Those who understand the politics involved in these types of law enforcement agencies know what I’m talking about. A fear of retaliation should not stop you from doing what needs to be done, but this cost should be included in your calculations.
Item #4 was the only thing that applied to this situation. It was clear something needed to be done to prevent future violations. I had a choice; either I could bite or I could growl. Either I could do only what was needed to get their attention or I could hit them with everything at once. As I mentioned earlier, if possible, don’t play all of your cards at once. Leave yourself some options in case they try to retaliate. Considering all of the above, I decided to get the job done with a growl.
In order to get their attention, I submitted an FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) of the documents relating to this issue. The Wardens did not want to give these documents up, and had originally balked at my request. However, since they were legally bound to provide these damaging documents, they finally gave them up. Requesting these documents was my way of firing a warning shot across their bow. I let them know they crossed the line without having to attack them. It also left me room to apply more pressure if they tried to retaliate. These documents were very incriminating and they knew I could cause them serious trouble.
In summary, make defense your primary reason for responding to a violation. Don’t concern yourself with trying to pay a person back for wronging you; let God deal with that. Carefully count the cost of the battle. Keep a clear vision of what you want to accomplish with your life and don’t let these violations become a distraction.
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