Friday, March 16, 2007
It was late in the year 1170 when Henry II of England supposedly uttered the famous words which have come to us as, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Actually, no one really knows the exact words spoken, but the idea was apparently conveyed in some similar language. Supposedly, the statement was preceded by something similar to, "What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord."
Whatever the exact words, the idea put forth by the king with such fervor was enough to encourage four knights who were with Henry in France, to take horse, cross the channel, and ride to Canterbury cathedral where they found Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, taking refuge at the altar. There, on the afternoon of December 29, apparently believing they were acting on the wishes of their liege lord, they brutally hacked at him until he was dead.
Throughout history, and at all levels of power, words and wishes of those in positions of authority, even words and wishes not specifically defined but merely implied, have often been translated by others as statements of fact or even as direct orders.
Whenever I hear of people taking it upon themselves to manufacture a standing structure out of an illogical (sorry Spock) pile of rubble, I remember a cold morning in Germany when two young soldiers approached me and asked, "Sergeant Baldwin. Are we going to have an alert?"
For those of you who never knew the joy of getting a phone call at two in the morning and hearing a gruff voice on the other end say, "We're on alert! Grab all your gear and get here now!", it was, and probably still is, something to be expected by any soldier stationed overseas, and many in the States. At that ungodly hour, the real thrill was kissing your loved ones good-bye as you headed out the door, not knowing if, as everybody wanted to know, "the balloon's gone up for real" this time.
Back to the cold morning in Germany. I tried to answer as noncommittally as possible, "Well, I don't really know, but they normally call one a month and we haven't had one yet this month. It's been about a month since the last one." I shrugged my shoulders and went on about my business. A few hours later, I overheard one soldier tell another, "Sergeant Baldwin says there's going to be an alert tomorrow." A little later, the company First Sergeant wanted to know why I was telling the troops we were going to have an alert. My protestations of innocence must have really seemed untruthful when the next morning the battalion to which our company was assigned, called an alert.
I believe the First Sergeant believed me, although some of the soldiers seemed to take my denials with a grain of salt and a knowing grin. What is important to note is that the First Sergeant knew that I had this disgusting habit of telling the truth, particularly when it would have saved certain portions of my skin if I had lied just a little bit!
Based on this and other events in my life, I long ago learned to be very cautious of what I said and how I said it in certain situations. I am sure that the President, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Trump, and the local mayor have all learned this lesson long ago. Therefore, when executive officers of companies both major and minor, and political office holders and bureaucrats disclaim knowledge of or participation in certain activities or events such as the mass firing of a large number of employees, the revelation of supposedly secret information, or the redeployment of resources to new areas for unknown or illogical reasons, I find myself going back to square one.
In square one is the basic question: How honest and reliable has this individual proven himself or herself to be?
As very often happens today, particularly in the political arena, many officials do not have a good track record. In fact, it often seems as if many "knights" have jumped on horses and crossed the channel to rid their bosses of some "meddlesome priest". While they at least might have been acting from the highest motives and in the belief that they were fulfilling the desires of their boss, I wonder how often the boss made sure that his or her unvoiced desires and wishes were loud enough to be heard.
About the Author
Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, health and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, yoga, writing, the environment, happiness, self improvement, and weight loss.
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