It's all over, put the pitchforks away
So, there's this young woman, Lindsey Stone, who was on a business trip to Washington, D.C. She and a friend found themselves at the Tomb of the Unknowns, where she had her friend take a photo of herself pretending to shout and give the finger next to a sign asking for quiet and respect. She posted this photo on her personal Facebook.
Then all hell erupted. A firestorm of criticism was launched at her. She and her friend were put on unpaid leave while her company, a non-profit working with disabled people, figured out their long-term response. The anger kept mounting, despite Ms. Stone's online apology. Now comes it that the two pranksters have been fired from their jobs.
What to make of this? I personally enjoin decorum in sacred or solemn spaces, but I acknowledge that not everybody has the right fetchin's-up. And while I deeply respect our military, I think adulation of the military and shaming of people who don't act quite as respectful as others think they should as tiresome and creepy as adulation of the clergy and shaming people who don't act quite as respectful toward them as others think they should. So, were Ms. Stone and her friend the victims of a witch-hunt?
Response No. 1: Taking something off somebody's private Facebook (if there is such a thing) and slamming them across the ether is as rude as anything Ms. Stone and her friend did. My first response is, What have we come to?
Will I be the next victim of somebody else's outrage? Will you? Is this the kind of society we want?
Response No. 2: Now putting myself in the employer's shoes. If Ms. Stone and her friend had done this on their own time, then however crass it might be, I would defend their right to do it and keep them on, hoping that their private prank didn't reflect so badly on my business that I had to throw them under the bus in order to avoid the backsplash. That said, since they did this on company time
(a business trip in which everything they do, even in their off-hours, reflects upon their employer), then I think the non-profit was right in letting them go. You have the inalienable right to act like a jerk, but not on my time.
I wouldn't want them to be labeled or rendered unemployable, but in the end, the first rule of business is, if you become the issue, then you've got to go. A hard lesson to learn, for sure, but Ms. Stone and her friend are not the first to have to learn it. Now, can we all get back to posting pictures of cats on-line? And bacon?