Moral tics, jiggly chicks & dirty pics at Wal-Mart


Expanded from the 2-4-2001 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

'Tis Sunday, the western sabbath when many take time to contemplate great moral questions. Some will do so at church. Other will forego a visit to the house of the Lord and remain in the sanctity of their own homes in order to evaluate whether or not excess exposure of pubescent cheerleaders stands to dilute the purity of football as perpetrated by geekshow wrestling promoters.

I choose to judge not, lest I be judged.

DIRTY PICTURES AND DIRTY DEEDS. The actions of a Cupertino, Calif., Long's Drugs photo attendant made worldwide news last week. Kelly Bennett, an 18 year-old policeman's daughter, became very concerned when she noticed that photos she had processed contained images of homemade bombs and an arsenal of weapons.

She called her father, who told her to call the cops. When 19 year-old Al Joseph DeGuzman showed up for his prints, she delayed him until police arrived. DeGuzman was apparently planning a carnage homage to the Colorado Columbine High School massacre. He now faces more than 100 felony counts in Santa Clara County, Calif.

Bennett has been hailed as a heroine. However, had she worked at Wal-Mart instead of Long's, she'd probably have been fired for saving potentially hundreds of lives.

Last month, "a federal jury ruled that a Wal-Mart store did nothing wrong in firing an employee who gave a customer's photographs indicating child abuse to police. Shirley Gasper was terminated in July for violating the store's customer confidentiality policy," the Associated Press reported.

"A U.S. District Court jury in Omaha rejected her wrongful termination claim against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Gasper gave authorities copies of a photo showing an infant crawling in what appeared to be a pile of marijuana, with $50 and $100 bills lying around. The child had bruises on his body, court records said. Criminal action was pursued and the child was placed in foster care. Police praised Gasper's actions, but Wal-Mart's policy calls for a management team to make decisions about such photos," AP continued.

"'We share the same concerns as Ms. Gasper for the safety of the child,' said Todd Lewis, an attorney for Wal-Mart.

"'We also respect the confidentiality and privacy of our customers. That's why we typically don't turn over photos to a third party.'

"If Gasper disagreed with the managers' decision, Lewis said, she could appeal to officials above her supervisor. Gasper's attorney had argued the Wal-Mart policy violated a state law that requires citizens to report suspected child abuse or neglect."

As with most things in life, there are no easy answers. In other cases, parents have had their children taken away and made wards of the state because some uptight photo processor considered pictures of naked babies as kiddy porn.

Last Thursday, Al Joseph DeGuzman's lawyer, Craig Wormley, in pleading his client not guilty, said "Mr. DeGuzman has merely an innocent fascination for some of the items that were seized."

Authorities had "taken a huge leap and are rushing to judgment of a man who has no prior criminal history whatsoever," he added.

However, "authorities said the contents of DeGuzman's room, which included 60 explosive devices, as well as a tape recording in which he allegedly described a scheme to blow up DeAnza College, left little doubt as to the young man's intentions," according to the San Jose Mercury News.

What would you have done? As a freedom loving, live-and-let live Nevadan, would you have overlooked the bombs or the bruises? Would you have trusted your boss to make the proper committee decision in a timely manner? What if you worked at Wal-Mart and managers decided to say no? Would you have still gone to the cops with your fears about an abused baby or a twisted teen?

BAD SAMARITANS. Perhaps the worst equipped bodies to debate such questions are comprised of elected officials. Some have proposed "good Samaritan laws," making a criminal of any person who fails to report or act in a given situation. Can you legally mandate moral obligation? The law has been wrestling with that one forever.

A passerby once came upon a horrendous auto accident. The driver's arm was pinned under his car as fire approached the leaking gas tank. The passerby cut off the victim's arm in order to get the remainder of his body out of harm's way. A fire truck arrived and put out the blaze within seconds of the potential holocaust. Because the car did not explode, the one-armed victim successfully sued the samaritan in civil court for loss of limb.

DRUNK FISHING. In another case, two obnoxious men rented a fishing boat from a vendor at a private lake. The boaters were well-known to the vendor, who intensely disliked both as loud and sometimes violent drunks.

The two guys rowed out and proceeded to drink themselves blind. Then, they capsized the boat. The vendor heard their screams for help and did nothing. The families of the drowned men sued but lost. The jury found that the vendor had no legal obligation to help the dipsy drunkards.

Perhaps that's why the biblical story of the good Samaritan is so appealing. After many others left a beaten man on the side of the road, a traveler from Samaria, a disfavored, lower class region of the Holy Land, became the only one to offer help. Jesus praised the man for his charity.

How would you react to the above scenarios? Your conclusions will tell you a lot about yourself.

If you decide you'd rather not think about it, that also tells you something for a Sunday.

Be well. Raise hell.


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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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