“She Can’t Help The Choices She Makes”

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By Madeleine Cardona

I will never forget the day my mother got diagnosed. I could swear that just yesterday I was thirteen years old waiting anxiously to be called in from the waiting room of some fancy New York State doctor’s office. I was young, but I had some idea of what was going on. I knew my parents and I were there because they were going through a divorce and fighting for custody of me. What I did not know was that we were about to endure a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation and that the results were going to change my life forever.

“Madeleine, your mom is very sick,” the psychiatrist attempted to explain to me. I did not understand. I did not know a sick person could look perfectly healthy. “It’s not a physical sickness, it’s in her head. She has a mental disorder called Paranoid Schizophrenia.” She went on using big words to explain how my mother’s brain “wasn’t like other people’s brains.” I sat there listening closely, hanging on every word the woman was saying to me. “She can’t help the choices that she makes, it’s not her fault that she is the way that she is. She needs help.” Every day since that day in the doctor’s office, that remark replays in my head over and over. “She can’t help the choices she makes.”

That is what gave me the most trouble. I sat around for years and years watching the choices that my mother was making, unable to intervene. If she cannot help the choices she makes, why could my dad or my mother’s other family not make the choices for her? Why could nobody make her take medication? I eventually learned that it was because my mother was sick, but “not sick enough.” The court ruled in favor of autonomy and said that my mother still had the right to make her own medical decisions. According to them she was functional and was not posing an immediate danger to herself or others. I understand autonomy. Autonomy is defined as “a principle in which a person should respect the rights of other individuals to freely determine their own choices and decisions” (Jonas). I understand how important free will and the ability to make choices about your own body are. It is hard for me, however, to understand how you can continue to honor a person’s right to make their own decisions, when every decision they make is only hurting them. It is hard to sit there, as a loved one, and not want to just make them take the medication they need to get better, or force them participate in that research study that just might help.

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Ethical Implications of Victim Blaming in Cases of Police Brutality

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By Emily Jenab, M.A.

Another black man has been shot and, subsequently, another case of character assassination post-death has begun.  Alfred Okwera Olango, 38, was killed as he pulled out “a three inch long vape” and allegedly pointed it at the police of El Cajun, California. The shooting of Olango, an “emotionally disturbed” man who was shot after his sister called 911 for help, has already resulted in justifications of why he deserved to die. Yes, he was holding a vape, but why did it look like a gun? Why was he standing like that? Why did he hold his vaporizer between his hands? Efforts to legitimize another murder, and state implicated violence, will be taken. The cycle repeats and ethical and emotional discussions surrounding these murders, along with the issues embedded in police systems, will continue to be ignored.

Respectability politics are pertinent for people of color, and for marginalized persons, the respectability of their very identity is questioned when they are victims of police misconducts. There is, for our cultural purposes, no “good” black man; if he is unarmed, as Eric Garner was, he still deserves to die and his murderer will not be charged. If he is armed in an open carry state, as Philando Castle was, it is asked why he even had a gun, or what he was doing prior to being pulled over. These men – employed, fathers, worthwhile members of their communities – are reduced to “thugs” in the wake of their deaths. As the horrific deaths play across screens, the feeling of inequality and shame arises in some while others choose to dehumanize and delegitimize the lives of victims. Even one’s commitment to serve his or her country is ignored, like the case of Anthony Hill, a veteran of the US Air forces who was killed in Georgia. There is no shield from pervasive racism, even serving our country, something that is normally highly venerated.

Perhaps “bad cops” and those who support them unwaveringly are engaging in some form of culturally disseminated ‘gaslighting’. The methods behind this tactic, normally perpetrated by domestic abusers, can be used to warp reality for the masses. As Shea Emma Fett notes, “every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, ‘What you know to be true is not true’.” The media, police departments and their ardent supporters present the same message: a victim of police violence becomes a criminal; a father becomes a criminal, a teenager becomes a man and a boy like Tamir Rice, barely 12, becomes a threat.

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Welcome Fall 2016 Master’s Students!

The Ethics and Society blog is delighted to welcome the following candidates to Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Ethics and Society:

Kelly Collins

Kelly Collins graduated in 2011 with a BS in Philosophy and Political Science from Florida State University.  After moving to New York City shortly after graduation, she began working as a legal assistant in a well-known international law firm.  While pursuing her MA in Ethics and Society, Kelly hopes to utilize real-world skills to analyze and reflect upon today’s moral dilemmas.

Tim Colvin

Tim Colvin is currently a senior at Fordham University from Kings Park, New York. He is a dual major in Political Science and Classical Civilization with a minor in Philosophy. Tim is interested in attending law school and hopes to apply a background in ethics in practice after completing the MA in Ethics and Society.

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Donald Trump, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Ethics

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By Emily Jenab

Donald Trump is the physical manifestation of a unique brand of modern racism that has been festering within the Republican Party for years – cumulating, now, in their very own monster. He is the screaming id of our nation; a leader who has cemented himself through an explicitly discriminatory campaign, that at all at once is anti-women, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim.

Trump promises to make America great again, cognizant, of course, of the fact that for many years our country was only great for white, able-bodied, cis men. He is a palpably scary force in that he provides a sense of legitimacy to the darkest corners of our society. He seems to revel in the production of it all: removing people of color from his rallies, and calling for the “good old dayswhen punches could be thrown, continuously turning to incendiary tactics.

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Study shows that marijuana has a significant role in relieving PTSD symptoms in combat veterans, more research on the way

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By: Kyle Pritz

The scantiness of marijuana research in the United States of America shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The lack of research is tremendous. However, with new decriminalizing laws budding up, the role of marijuana usage in the symptomatic relief of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorders is receiving uncustomary attention in the United States.

In a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2014, two American psychologists based at SUNY Albany, Jamie Bolles and Mitchell Earleywine, investigated the relationship between marijuana, expectancies, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Using an online questionnaire and maintaining anonymity to enhance the response rate, Earleywine & Bolles surveyed more than 650 combat-exposed, male veterans who used marijuana at least once per week.

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Is there an ethics code for storytelling?: the phenomenon of Humans of New York

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By: Emily Jenab

Humans of New York has become inescapable. Photographer Brandon Stanton is singlehandedly telling multiple stories: effectively creating empathy in the cold, often isolating experience of New York; unearthing the humanity in the overlooked. It is noble work that has reached millions.

I have often found myself consumed by the stories and photographs of the ignored, not to mention pleased with his work in Iran and Pakistan, defying stereotypes with each humanizing tale posted. His work seems to be the modern-day activism that we have come to love: a way of creating connections to faces on our screens in a globalized world.

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Can wars ever be just or are wars merely justifiable?: The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo via freedigitalphotos.net.
Photo via freedigitalphotos.net.


By: Louise Boshab

The concepts of justice and injustice are not effective in defining war in an objective manner but on the other hand easily bring on a subjective understanding of war among populations, which will then influence either their opposition or their support of war (Gaoshan 280).

In a lecture at the Carnegie Council, David Rodin of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict addresses the issue of the ethics of war and conflict, and caused me to reflect upon what makes a war just. I will explore the ideas of justified and unjustified wars discussed in Rodin’s talk through the example of the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the initial reasons behind the intermittent conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo taking place since 1997 has to do with the status of the Banyarwanda—Congolese people of Rwandan descent—and of the Congolese Tutsi within Congolese society. The strong anti-Rwandan feelings that existed before the war only grew worse.

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