Life As I See It
THE GREAT ETHICS SCARE
"So much for the workplace. The political scene is going well, no need for any warnings there. To carry on a serious conversation using the words politics, truth and ethics in the same dialog, now qualifies you as one stupid son of a bitch."
by Randy Burns
Copyright © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
THE DEATH OF FRANK WILLS
The truth is coming, the truth is coming! It will stay until it's been beaten senseless, kicked severely and spat upon. But it's still coming, count on it. Also, you might be interested to know that ethics will be attempting a comeback. Ethics! Can you believe that?
They're traveling together again liked they used to do. Truth and ethics forever, but this millennium will keep them from being the rule. They're both ready to accept being the exception to the rule now. In other words, they've settled. So don't let it scare you if you someone at the office suddenly acts like they have ethics, it will pass. I know I'm not wrong about this, they are coming but they won't stay long. I'm glad I had this chance to warn you before you ran into an unexpected blindsiding. That could be embarrassing if you're not ready for it.
Now here's what I want you do: if someone at work straightens up and exclaims, "That wouldn't be right, it's not ethical!" shoot right back with "Thank God you said that, I feel the same way. You don't know how relieved I am to hear you say that!" A finger spread hand over your heart when delivering the line is optional, a sound move, but you be the judge of the need for it. Just keep it ready. Be prepared to use what I've just told you, it's important. This quick, natural sounding response will pull you out of a questionable situation smoothly, and into the brief ethical experiment that will only last until the real chips are slammed down again.
After that you can relax, the great experiment in ethics, at least in your workplace, will be over. After this brief period has been excused, it will go down in business history as the "Great Ethics Scare." Next time the same person says anything like that to you, break into laughter immediately and they will too. Trust me, it will soon be clear sailing again.
So much for the workplace. The political scene is going well, no need for any warnings there. To carry on a serious conversation using the words politics, truth and ethics in the same dialog, now qualifies you as one stupid son of a bitch. The other person in the discussion would be your enabler; you seldom have the opportunity to become that fundamentally brainless without such friends. Didn't your mother ever tell you not to hang around with that kind? She must have, but you weren't listening!
Watch out now, after the election they'll be arriving for a brief visit everywhere. Truth and ethics, riding together again. Watch the two of them step out of the Honda in Ralph Nader suits, polite, warm and serious. They will be dealt with in a respectful way by the heads of Industry and business. You can be sure of that. They might even have some impact (If I know them), but impact alone still fades away. There are only two of them and they can't make it everywhere, which means they won't visit long.
So relax, rest easy new profiteers of the millennium. If this was not an election year, thus a period of false effort, we'd have no respect left for our ethical history at all.
by Randy Burns
Frank Wills died on Wednesday September 27, 2000. Everyone should be aware of his death, even those that don’t remember what he did on that warm June night in 1972. That’s when it happened, that’s when he called the Washington DC Police. Bob Woodward said, “It was one of the most important phone calls ever made in American History.”® Frank Wills was a twenty-four-year-old security guard at the Watergate Hotel. While doing his rounds on that June night he discovered a piece of electrical tape that was keeping the stairway door to the garage from locking. But he was used to that. People didn’t like having to sign out of the Watergate to get down to their cars. Usually, Frank would find chairs and other objects propping that door open, but this was the first time he’d seen tape used. He ripped it off and put it in his pocket, then went on about his rounds. Little time passed before he went back to re-check that door. It was taped open again! That’s when the young black man did his job. He called the Police. Sounds simple doesn’t it? He only did what he was supposed to do, right? Well so were the five men upstairs in the Democratic Headquarters wearing suits and surgical gloves. They were fixing a broken bug that had been placed in one of the phones. They were also photographing documents and searching for things.
Then, without warning, in walked the Washington DC Police with our man Frank Wills. They caught all five of Nixon’s assholes. Actually, that last statement of mine has been argued repeatedly, and I believe it still is to this day. No one ever knew for certain whether Nixon was made up out of five separate assholes, or if he had been born as one great big one.
From that moment on, the investigation and prosecution of one high official after another excluded Frank Wills completely. They took his ball and ran with it. Politicians became stars, reporters were heroes, and the one man that did hisjob perfectly was ignored. The eighty-dollar a week security guard. It didn’t surprise me then, it wouldn’t surprise me now. Perhaps it was too soon to say thank you. With all those giant egos in full battle gear, do you think the name Frank Wills ever entered their minds? Hell no! So it’s time for us all to put truth back into its rightful place.
Frank gave politicians their careers and cemented them. Wills caused the downfall of more high-ranking officials than any person ever did with one simple action. That one phone call took down the President of the United States. Dean, Halderman, Ehrlichman, and my personal favorite G. Gordon Liddy. Gordon has said many times, “If the President had wanted me to kill someone, I would have done it.”® Afterward, the above named government criminals made money from their books and speaking engagements. They all became “infamous” in the most profitable way. The press and media literally saw to it! But who was looking out for Frank Wills? The only thing Frank Wills got out of that deal was to play himself in the movie All The President’s Men. He must have had a ball every night, just hanging out with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman drinking and telling stories. Those must have been great times! Yeah, sure they were. I wonder if the two stars ever took the time to say hello to him.
Frank spent the next stretch of years going from one job to another. He was arrested for shoplifting twice. Once for a pen worth 98 cents, and the next time for a pair of sneakers worth 12 dollars. Somehow, he was able to take it as far as the Supreme Court, but fell short of his plea. He was awarded Richmond County Prison for a sentence of one year.
In 1990, he moved in with his ailing mother Marge and took care of her. Both of them lived on the 450 dollars she received every month from social security. She died in 1992. Frank couldn’t afford to do anything with his own mother’s body, so he donated it to science. Then he turned to making money as a handy man. Not much though. He stayed in the rundown house that his mother died in, with no electricity or running water. But he still went on with it, and that’s important. Some people can’t handle their future when it comes to them. For the last few months of his life, he waited for his own death in a hospital. Finally, the brain tumor got to him and he was no longer 52.
Mr. Wills didn’t live his life to be in any history book. He rarely spoke of Watergate at all. But he was alive once, the number of times anyone is allowed to do that, and he made one hell of a difference. Never forget that.
So when the big man stood to judge him, he put the pen back in his pocket and those sneakers on Frank’s feet. Then God put his arm around him
and said, “Welcome to heaven, man, you’ve done what you could.”®
Randy Burns started out in the 60s as a folk singer in Greenwich Village in the 60s: “When I first arrived in the Village with a bag over my shoulder and a guitar in my hand, I slept on the subways and park benches until I landed my first gig.” Randy became the resident opening act at the Gaslight Cafe where he sang every night with the folk and blues stars he had “only heard on records.” He later released several albums on Mercury and Polydor Records, played all the best clubs in the country and came to the very brink of success. Then, “things happened, I broke my contract and continued singing another fourteen years after my last album, including singing across Ireland twice.” Randy Burns will soon publish his memoirs, Before The Road Ended. In his “Life As I See It” column, he tries to “straighten out the twisted shit we all have to live through.”
Check out Randy’s site, Before the Road Ended:
SEND CORRESPONDENCE TO: