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Monday, January 23, 2012

Heroes and Villains


Back in August 2009, Failed Messiah had a post called America's Worst Rabbi. Read it and them come back here to continue.

While I agree with Rabbi Safran that people are making a much bigger deal of Bernie Madoff (I think the reactions to him, the out of proportion punishment he was given, a punishment that serves only to partially assuage people's need for vengeance, a punishment that murderers, rapists, kidnappers and terrorists often don't even get, shows that our society is overly obsessed with money and cares more about money than it does about people), I also think that there is little to admire in the man. Back then, I wrote a blog entry on this subject on my "Jewish Sandwich" blog called "He Madoff with all the Cash" which talks about my feelings about Bernie Madoff. To be honest, in retrospect, he could be let out of prison today and he will have already received the worst punishment, that being the knowledge that his actions led directly to his son's death by suicide.

All that having been said, I want to revisit the part of Rabbi Safran's article where he doesn't give "Sully" Sullenberger his due. "Sully", who, besides keeping a cool head and safely landing the plane in the Hudson River, besides not leaving the plane until he was certain EVERYONE was off the plane and safe, is also currently a spokesperson for St. Jude's Hospital (which shows where his heart is -- in helping others). And, this past week, we have a perfect contrast to Captain Sullenberger -- we have Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia. Yes, I know someone is innocent until proven guilty, and I don't know what I would have done in his shoes. But I do know that people who tell the truth generally will tell a story that may expand as time goes on as the person recalls more details, but it doesn't change with the wind. Captain Schettino's story has changed more times than the death toll number has changed.

But even if he did "fall off the boat", he clearly didn't do all he could to save lives, clearly didn't search to see if there were people who needed help, didn't coordinate rescue efforts with his crew. Granted, his ship is larger than was "Sully's" airplane. But instead of being "proactive", instead of reporting right away that they needed help, he and his crew seem to have taking more time seeing if they could keep it quiet than trying to coordinate rescue. The passengers were left in the dark, not knowing what was happening, not knowing what to do to save themselves.

The Costa Concordia was a tragedy, a tragedy that could have been averted if the Captain had been a man more similar to Captain Sullenberger. I doubt the entire fault lies with the Captain, but, if Captain Sullenberger hadn't, G-d forbid, landed the plane with the skill and forethought he did, the ensuing tragedy would not have been his fault either. With his bravery and insight, his knowledge and his caring, no lives were lost. That, Rabbi Safran, is why, even though part of his actions was self-preservation, Captain Sullenberger is a hero and Captain Schettino isn't.

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