Morality: Acosta’s and Anello’s Similar Challenges and Outcomes

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By: Ken Hamilton

In political terms, we often look as the worse governmental corruption being measured in cash; but in reality, the worst corruption in government and all of our own lives has more to do with morality than money.  And without a common morality, which boils down to simply the people and their governments having mutual respect for each other, we all are doomed to fail.

Many Americans have seen such moral corruption on the national level as demonstrated in the adjudicated case of CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta and his dealings with President Trump. But let’s not forget a local and similarly adjudicated case in the 2007 dealings of Niagara Falls winemaker Mateo Anello and the former City Council Chairman Robert Anderson. Both of their inputs and outcomes may have similarly aided and impaired the citizen’s ability to challenge their elected officials for wanted answers more so than their government wanting to provide those answers.  Sad to say, missing in both cases was the necessary decorum of mutual respect.

In the case of Anello, his inquisitive challenge to the African-American Anderson was a relay concerning some of Anderson’s public, albeit jocular denigration of Italians. Anello made his inquiry during a public speaking period of a council meeting.  Though Anello never got to the point of demanding an answer from Anderson, for purposes soon to be made clear, some other platform for his grievance may have best served everyone. He nonetheless had the right to speak, and he arguably spoke to Anderson more respectfully than Acosta would later speak to Trump. Anello’s comments obviously troubled Anderson and other council members.  After being ordered to cease, Anello continued to speak and was then forcibly removed on the order of the chairman and summarily arrested by the attending officer.

In Acosta’s case, after his refusing the president’s order to cease speaking subsequently making physical contact with a female intern in her attempts to take the microphone from him, the correspondent simply had his White House press pass revoked. Both Anello and Acosta sued under the provisions of the US Constitution: Anello won under the freedom of speech provision of the 1st Amendment; and in not breaking rules that didn’t exist, Acosta won under the provision of due process of the 5th Amendment. But did the city’s public speakers and national journalistic peers win or lose, and was there a greater or a lesser degree of the morality of mutual respect that would follow?

The United States freedoms were undoubtedly founded upon Christian principles; hence its morality base is likewise founded upon doing unto others as you wish them to do unto you.   One of the Roman Republic’s more important observers and often quoted historians was Senator Publius Cornelius Tacitus, who was born in a time when Christians were routinely being killed in Rome’s Coliseum.  However, he said something of his government that is also evident in ours today: “In a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous.” Our numerous laws are clearly and merely a replacement of what was once the common sense of the morality of mutual respect; and it is now dictated by an offended government, not by the people being ruled.

In a telephone interview with Anello, his assessment of President Trump’s personality was similar to how one might also view the personality of Anderson.  Both men are somewhat crude, but are considered affable and empowered by those who loved them.  But arrogance can often accompany personalities and popularity, and each man’s reactions could have been predicted; though no one expected what happened to Anello.

Had we understood Tacitus, then we should have predicted what each government would do in those cases: Acosta’s adjudicating judge ordered the writing of rules of conduct and in Anello’s case the council reiterated and/or strictly enforced the rules that dictated how the public is to address them without them modifying their own behaviors. Trump’s rules of behavior could allow any president not to call upon any correspondent to ask questions, or having to respond to them, or not having press conferences at all. The city council reacted by carefully restricting a speaker’s time, outlining no personal attacks on council members during the speaking period, and reiterating their exemption of being required to answer or to even pretend to listen to any of the questions, yet requiring speakers to otherwise respect their inattentiveness.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a more perfected mutual morality return to our society; one that would preclude the government feeling a need for to write morality rules that protects itself, but in so doing, reduces the effectiveness of the people’s constitutional rights?

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