The last thing I say to my kids when I drop them off at school every day is, “Be a good leader and make good choices.”
You cannot be a good leader without making good choices and those who make good choices will always, in some way, be seen as good leaders. On the most basic level, isn’t this what all parents want for their children: to make good choices?
It was not till recently that I began to realize the degree of difficulty quietly hiding within what I thought to be a simple encouragement to my two boys. If anything can be learned from the national and local landscape of the past year or two (or 20), and mutually agreed upon by all parties, it’s that making good choices turns out to be one of the most difficult things a person has to do.
Making good choices also turns out to be something some people are absolutely ill-equipped to do for a variety of reasons, though it almost always leads back to one: self-interest. Good choices should be right choices but too many of us allow our self-interest to cloud our decision-making. We convince ourselves that the good choice — almost always the easier choice or that on the path of least resistance — is also the right choice. The right choice ultimately is the good choice for the greater community but can often be the bad choice for the self. Good is not always right, but right is always good.
When Rosa Parks made the decision not to change bus seats, it was not a good decision for her personally at the time, but it was the right choice for the greater community, ultimately rendering her decision as good. When Oskar Schindler made the choice to protect hundreds of Jews by employing them in his factories, risking personal fortune and safety to keep them from being shipped off to concentration camps, it was not a good choice for him personally but it was the right choice for the community, transforming his personal bad choice into a greater good one.
And when Jane Doe stepped forward to credibly accuse her attacker, Jacob Walter Anderson, of sexual assault, it was not a good decision for her personally, but it was the right choice for the greater community; the decision to imperil herself for the safety and protection of the community of the future became a choice that is right in its very goodness.
Jane Doe did well to do the right thing and make good choices. If you are a victim of sexual assault, or assault of any kind, do not hesitate to step forward and tell the authorities. Please know that despite what has happened in this instance, there is always hope. There is always the chance that someone else will also make the right choice, despite the difficulty they face in doing so.
In pressing a controversial plea bargain rather than a criminal trial, Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde has been quoted as stating she doubted the chance of convicting a one-time rapist. If you are reading this and have been a victim of such a heinous act yourself, do not be discouraged: While I cannot speak to the motives behind Ms. LaBorde’s decision-making, I can assure you that there are others out there who will seek justice, no matter how inconvenient or how difficult the trial ahead may be for them personally. Those others will make decisions based on the greater good for the community and not out of self-interest.
We must, each of us, seek the moral good. We must, each of us, seek to love our neighbor, even at the cost of our own self-interest. It is in the easy that the devil does his work. Self-interest, indifference, laziness and fear are the tools he employs to operate amongst us. Franciscan friar Richard Rohr warns us that we should not be scandalized by the tragic, but we should do what we can “to be peace and to do justice.” My hope is that District Judge Ralph Strother will make the right choice, to do justice, which will also ultimately be the good choice.