We home school, so when the news on Benghazi broke it became part of our lesson plan. In our home, everything is an object lesson. It is not just about the facts, but what we can learn from them. Here’s how it played out in our home…
1. You never, ever tell a lie especially when you know it will have a negative effect on someone else’s life.
People seem to forget the lie about the video landed a man in jail, with his reputation besmirched, as he became the person who caused the death of four men through his negligence. It doesn’t matter what his reputation was beforehand. He did not deserve this. Words have consequences, and for this man, a You Tube video that garnered little attention and likely would not have amounted to much now put him into the public spotlight and a jail cell. Why? Because someone lied.
2. When you realize you are wrong, you correct yourself and apologize.
Even if someone thought this really was about the video, when it became clear it was not about the video you come forward and fix your mistake. It is obvious now that it was never about the video, and, as far as I know, no one has done anything to rectify this lie. Instead, the game plan seems to be to pretend this never happened. Pretending a mistake did not happen is not how an upright person goes through life.
3. You do not leave people under your authority in harm’s way.
If Chris Stevens was a child, this would be abuse. He was placed in a dangerous situation, with inadequate protection, and his reasonable requests to the people in charge were denied. If this had been a business, it would be shut down. My daughter hit the nail on the head when she likened the situation to David sending Uriah to the wall then pulling back his reinforcements.
4. If you cannot provide what a person under your authority needs, you do not put them into the situation.
Chris Stevens was an American, and a homosexual. He was sent to an area where there are people who wish to kill both. Calling the residence something other than an embassy because it is not up to regulations is not going to protect this man. CYA is not ‘right,’ and in this case it got people killed. An upright person, one who is worthy of being in charge, worries more about their people than about getting ahead. It should never be about whether or not you can technically get away with it, it is about whether or not it is right to do.
5. When there is a problem, you send help, all the help you can.
No one knows when a situation will end, or what will turn then tide. Everything available should have been co-coordinated and sent. Two ex-Navy seals did a miraculous job holding people off, until they were overcome. What could a few more do? We will never know.
6. You plan for the future- all possible futures.
While there are situations that one cannot foresee, an attack on an embassy in a Muslim country on 9/11 was entirely foreseeable. (O.K. Technically it was not an embassy, just a house with an American in it who officially represented the U.S. -C.Y.A. always looks stupid in hindsight, remember that.) By saying the closest help was 20-24 hours away what you are saying is that you had no viable plan for saving these people who you knew were in harm’s way. This is disgraceful and unacceptable. What was so important in Benghazi that it was worth the lives of four Americans?
7. “What does it matter?”
When people are dead it always matters. It matters to loved ones, and to the people who are under you who want to be assured, as they continue their employment, that they do not become one of the dead. When dealing with death it always matters. This is why we do autopsies. This is why we have hospital ethics committees. This is why we investigate when a body is found. We want to make sure that whatever happened will never happen to another person again. And if your job is to protect these people, and the system you set up failed, you need to know why, and you need to fix it. It should be your top priority, so it never, ever happens again.
8. A leader needs to communicate.
Even if you believe everything that can be done has been done, you need to communicate that to the people you are accountable to. They need to know the situation has been resolved, and that someone cares. Caring may seem like a little thing, but it shows the people who place their lives, and their loved ones’ lives, in your care that they can trust you. People who care understand a families’ need for closure, and to know that their loved one did not die in vain. The people who continue under you need to know that everything will be done so that this never happens again.
So how can we apply this to our own lives?
1. We watch our words. While we try to avoid all lies, we realize that lies that shift the blame to others are especially heinous.
2. We take responsibility for our actions. When we realize a mistake has been made, we fix it. This is especially important in jobs where people’s lives depend on you. In healthcare, if a mistake is left uncorrected a person may die. As an electrician, a house may catch fire etc, etc. You never, ever ignore problems like this and hope no one notices.
3. You do everything you can to ensure the safety of those who depend on you. If your child claims they are being mistreated, you investigate. You do not leave them at the mercy of a bully, or a pedophile etc because it is an inconvenience. And you trust the child to know when he does not feel safe.
4. If you know the situation is not safe, you do not leave someone there. You do not leave a child in a daycare you do not trust. You do not leave your dog outside without water in 100 degree weather. You do not leave a baby unattended by the stairs and hope nothing will happen. You do everything in your power to ensure the safety of those who rely on you.
5. When there is a problem, you get help. You do not refrain from calling 9-1-1 because you might be embarrassed. You do not refrain from seeking medical help because you are afraid of the outcome, or that the doctor might think you are a bad parent. You get help because help is needed and you care more about the lives of the people who rely on you than you do about your feelings and reputation.
6. You plan for the future, even the ones you do not want to face. You buy smoke detectors and practice safety drills. You have flashlights, batteries and back-up power for when the electricity goes out. You purchase jumper cables and have insurance. Why? Because even though all of these things are a waste of money if nothing ever happens, they will be invaluable if something does, and as responsible people, we plan for these events.
7. You examine the things that go wrong in life, and try to keep them from happening again. If you lose a job, you try to ensure your next job will be more secure, either with a better company, or by obtaining more skills (or by not doing the foolish thing that caused you to be fired…). If someone gets hurt, you fix the step, melt the ice, etc. You do not allow others to suffer the same injury if possible.
8. You let people know you care. You show them the fix, comfort them during their time of loss or convalescence etc. Doctors are told that most lawsuits do not begin when a person is hurt, but when a hurt person perceives that no one cares. This applies to teachers, mechanics, waiters etc. Mistakes will be made, but if the person knows you care they can trust that you will do your best to make things right and that is all most people are asking for.
These are just rules of basic living. I think that’s why this scandal, more than any of the others I have lived through, bothers me so much. The other scandals were mainly stupid and involved being incredibly short-sighted (too short-sighted to be in the positions they were in), but this one, this one violates so many principles a decent person should have internalized by just being alive, by just being a parent, by just living in this world, that it causes me to question deeply just how morally bereft our society is, especially when many people have a hard time seeing why this was so wrong…
Let me summarize, in case you missed it:
Our government put our representatives into a situation where we knew there would be people who would want to kill them. They did not provide them with even the minimal security an embassy should have, but instead called it by a different name so they would be exempt from the need to protect them. They then had no plan to help should trouble come. (Or, would not allow that plan to be implemented.) They then stopped the people who were willing to go to help from doing so. Then they lied and told us about a ‘spontaneous protest’ and a video. If we find out this was all to ensure someone got re-elected, it just gets so much worse… How do you not see something wrong?