Monday, June 23, 2008

Minor Changes in Circumstance

I've been thinking lately about activities that can be strongly encouraged in one circumstance, but discouraged or illegal in others.

One example is burning the U.S. flag. This is considered by many to be an outrage when done in protest, and yet it is also the approved method for retiring an old flag. I find it intriguing that when asked why you are burning the flag, your answer can determine entirely how your action will be treated.

Another example would be jumping off a high cliff. This would be encouraged for recreation, but discouraged if attempting to kill oneself.

On a similar note, I was recently watching a charity golf event where one of the participants had what they repeatedly referred to as: "inoperable, non-smoking lung cancer". It was interesting how they always would include "non smoking". The fact that he developed the cancer randomly makes him a much more sympathetic character than if he had acquired it through a lifetime of smoking.

I guess the theme is that there are very few circumstances that can be fully digested without knowing the detailed motivation and history that led up to the event. Parents are familiar with this, since often you arrive on scene where some incident has occurred and no sound judgment can be rendered without carefully piecing together the events and motives that preceded it.


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