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Jewish World Review May 12, 2000/ 7 Iyar, 5760

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports


Taking your lumps -- AUTHOR TOM MORRIS tells the story of a man who blamed all but himself for his golf scores. One day, this all-excuses golfer addressed his ball at the first tee. He concentrated, he shifted, and after a frightful time elapsed, he swung and missed the ball. He turned to the other three of his foursome with his explanation, "Tough course."

Taking one's lumps is a lost art. "I have no one to blame but myself" has succumbed to the inner child, self-esteem and a raft of non-judgmentalism that disallows accountability. The Centers for Disease Control released their findings that drinking cheap beer causes higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. You quaff Lone Star or Iron City and hello gonorrhea?

The CDC might want to research the step in between, to wit, sex. Another study found that there are no obese CEOs and concluded that there is discrimination against the obese. Check out the number of CEOs on treadmills and there might be some insight beyond no one likes a fat guy in charge.

But three women have emerged over the past few weeks to take us to new lumps lows. Paragons of rationalization and rhetoric, these women passed through living in denial to the kingdom of it's-never-my-problem.

Ruth Ann Burns, mother of three, is the plaintiff in a medical malpractice suit against her doctors for the unwanted birth of her two-year-old son, Nicholas. The front-page headlines here in Phoenix reflecting her economist witness's testimony for a demand of $143,214 (what parent has this economist been chatting with? The Little League trophy fees alone run $150,000) in damages (plus the usual frou-frou damages) ought to look good pressed into Nicholas's baby book between the MMR immunization record and the first haircut. There's a bed-time story for the little tyke, "Yes, Mommy would have killed you had she only known earlier."

The astute Ms. Burns was 16-17 weeks along when doctors finally discovered her pregnancy through an ultra sound. An earlier pregnancy test was negative, but "abdominal swelling" continued, as is often the case in being four months along.

Despite the fact that this was Ms. Burns' sixth pregnancy (two of which were carried to full term and three of which were vacuumed out between 1993 and 1995), she claims she was unaware because she had no nausea. Swollen feet, raging hormones, varicose veins, heart burn, new, improved chest size, and, by 16 weeks, the quickening with tiny limbs doing their somersaults, tumbles and left hooks to the spine didn't pique her curiosity?

Ms. Burns blames doctors for she is "stuck" raising a child she didn't plan on or want because it was too late for an abortion. Ms. Burns has the gift of a little boy who survived her smoking, drinking and tendency to abort more often than not. He was meant to be. Tough course.

Whiner Kathleen Leih, 42, an elementary education major (which may explain our children's performance on standardized math tests), spent $200 for her five-credit-hour Intermediate Algebra course. She entered this course without a care in the world, having earned a "B" in Introduction to Algebra 20 years ago. Somewhere in the middle of the semester she stopped taking notes and by last week, when she reached the deadline for course withdrawal, she held a whopping 57% average in the course. Mrs. Leih withdrew from the course and demanded and got a refund from a dean at Mesa Community College for the failure of advisors to warn her of the course's difficulty. Newsflash: intermediate algebra takes work. Get a tutor, get a different major, do some studying, and take your lumps. Instead, Mrs. Leih's husband has set up a table on campus with a recruiting placard for the remaining idiots, "Are you entitled to a refund?"

Tough course.

Finally, there is Cheryl Mills, the White House attorney who offered an eloquent and creative defense for Mr. Clinton during his impeachment trial for perjury and obstruction --- she talked about civil rights. Ms. Mills, a black female, gave a heck of a distracting speech which caused the Senate to say, "Well, if Clinton's this good on civil rights, he must be innocent."

The Senate reasons this way --- it explains our toilet water regulations and Robert Byrd's eyebrows.

Ms. Mills was back on Capitol Hill last week to explain why hundreds of e-mails about campaign finance issues were lost right at the time Congress had subpoenaed them and why no one mentioned them for three years after they were found. Ms. Mills' defense, "Nothing you discover here today will feed one person, give shelter to someone who is homeless, educate one child, provide health care for one family or offer justice to one African-American or Hispanic juvenile. You could do so much to transform our country, but instead you are compelled to use your great authority and resources to address e-mail."

I thought Giuliani caused all of these problems. White juveniles are not worthy of justice? And why couldn't she add the plea, "or help one dunderhead elementary ed major pass algebra?"

Ms. Mills is in it deep and cannot bring herself to admit such. Instead of taking her lumps, she pulls the stunt of our era blame something or someone else. They decimated Ken Starr with this ploy and Linda Tripp goes on trial for her misdeeds this month. When accused, belittle your accusers. When you're responsible, never take your lumps. Take money. Take shots. Dish out blame. Never, say "This is my fault." The key phrase is, "Tough course."

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings