The Proper Use of Authority

General Robert E. Lee was certainly understood what it meant to have authority over others and how to use that authority properly.

General Robert E. Lee certainly understood what it meant to have authority over others and how to use that authority properly.

Southern gentlemen are frequently found in positions of authority – and for good reason. The traits and character that makes one a Southern gentleman are the same traits and character that indicates that one has what it takes to handle authority well. At least that used to be the case. It now seems that men are placed in positions of authority not because they have the good character and judgement to do what is right, but because they will blindly follow orders without question – regardless of whether it is the right thing to do or not.

Understand that following legitimate orders issued by those in authority over you is also the mark of a Southern gentleman. Respect for authority is the cornerstone of a civilized society – respect for legitimate authority.

What brings this to mind is the way that National Park Service rangers have abused the authority vested in them during the 2013 government “shut down” by following political orders to make life miserable for the public they are supposed to serve. Did all NPS rangers act this way? No, I’m quite certain that was not the case. What I find troubling though, is that I have not seen any reports of rangers who stood up and said they will not be part of this. Would it be reported? Absolutely. Probably not by the major media, but the alternative media would have hailed such men as the courageous gentlemen that they would be. I saw no such reports.

That brings up the question of what is the proper way to handle illegitimate, immoral, or illegal orders? If you’re looking for a safe, easy, and painless answer, there is none. No one wants to lose their job – especially in a job market such as we have now. That is why it is so important to be selective when going to work for someone (including working for yourself) to make sure that you are working for someone who is of good moral character and will not require you to do that which you know is wrong.

What if you find yourself in such a situation anyway? As difficult as it is to say, a letter of resignation that clearly spells out the reason why you can no longer work for that employer is the only proper way to handle the matter of being issued immoral and/or illegal orders.

Before I get accused of being “holier than thou” and hearing “you don’t understand”, and “it’s obvious you’ve never been in that situation”, I’ll say, “Yes, I have been in that exact situation.” Did I follow my own advice here, and do the right thing and resign? Sadly, no, I did not. Instead I told the person over me that I knew exactly what he was doing and what he told me to sign my name to, and that this had better never happen again. Yes, I signed my name to something I knew to be false. I put my signature on a lie. That is something that I will live with for the rest of my life – always wishing that I had done the right thing. That, my fellow aspiring Southern gentlemen, is why I am writing this. It is written in the hope that others will not make the same error that I made decades ago. Learn from my mistakes.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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4 Responses to The Proper Use of Authority

  1. I am not surprised that people would follow unethical or illegal orders, but I am disgusted by their doing so. How anyone could live with themselves after doing such a low down thing is beyond my comprehension.

    It took the government years to lower the state of society to where such repugnant acts can occur. It all started when the lines broke at Petersburg.

    A decade or so ago I recall that the military was asking soldiers whether or not they would fire on American citizens. I have no statistics to prove it, but there can be only one reason for this question; that is to advance the careers of those who were willing, to be slaves, and to enslave their fellow citizens, while holding down those who would stand on principle.

    We now have a spineless military hierarchy, that will gladly do the bidding of their masters no matter how much it infringes the citizens freedoms. This same mentality has corrupted all branches of Federal law enforcement and many localized authorities as well.

    Years ago I routinely asked service members if they would fire on their countrymen in order to confiscate arms. Almost universally the answer was an adamant NO, however I could tell a few were merely bowing to peer pressure and in reality they could not wait for the opportunity to be petty tyrants. They were the minority, but no more.

    More recently I asked a career FBI agent the same question and without missing a beat, in a chillingly cold deadpan, his reply was “whatever they tell me to do”

    We now have in this country all the makings of an AmeriKan SS. The callous disregard of WWII vets and rights of landowners, business owners and vacationers are the undeniable proof. Twenty years ago their would have been a flat rejection of those tactics by the vast majority of law enforcement; now the few who don’t have a sadistic bent, are so characterless as to be void of human dignity.

  2. Valerie Protopapas says:

    Lord Acton was a brilliant thinker – perhaps one of the most brilliant in his age or any other. It was he who wrote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” “Authority” is just another word for power. People raised to positions of authority/power will usually exhibit their true character. The Colonel is quite right to point out that those in REAL authority today tend to raise under them people who will do what they’re told in order to keep what authority they may under the circumstances.

    We have all seen it, especially in government – and the smaller the government the more obvious the failings of those put into “authority.” In many instances, people are voted into office for reasons quite apart from their abilities OR their character. Usually, some external such as ideology, party or race result in governments of, for and by the incompetent and the corrupt. My grandfather – a brilliant man – used to say about those folks, “Put a beggar on horseback and he’ll ride it to death.” Of course, by that he meant that people raised ABOVE their abilities tend to make use of their position to achieve goals that have nothing whatsoever to do with public (or any other) service. Nothing exhibits this situation with more clarity than the personal lives of America’s “First Family.” Not since Versailles has a ruler and his wife showed less concern with the public good and more personal greed and lack of rationality than Barack and Michelle Obama. During a period of economic distress, their countless vacations, shopping trips and personal expenditures cannot help but remind us of the French aristocracy just before that country’s revolution. They not only seem oblivious to the suffering of others, but in fact, have the same spirit of “entitlement” (in this case admittedly based upon race!) that surrounded the French ruling class.

    On the other hand, America does have what must be considered the premiere example of a hero “in authority.” That man was George Washington. Hamilton wanted to make him a king – and he refused. He spent his time as President working diligently to craft this new office in such a way as to insure that those who came after him would either live up to their office or, at worst, not be able to destroy it. He was reasonably successful until the rise of a true “dark horse,” Abraham Lincoln. I once heard a (supposed) constitutional authority who loved Lincoln say that Washington created the presidency and Lincoln “changed” it. I opined at the time that the word should have been “destroyed” rather than “changed” and I believe that to this day. When Washington – a Virginian after all! – left the office, none other than King George declared him “a great man” because the King understood that Washington could have remained in office for life had he so wished. The King wondered at a man who willingly lay down the reins of power and all that that meant.

    Sadly, even the best of our present “statesmen” seem unable or unwilling to understand just what “authority” means except in the crass relationship between it and political power. I tend to believe that this is the result of the fact that the whole culture has been deteriorating for the last one hundred and fifty years and it is no more possible to relate authority to its best definition today than to find a clean cup of water in a cesspool.

  3. Shannon, I’m afraid that you are right. The reply by the FBI agent you mentioned is chilling, to say the least.

    Regarding what became known as the “29 Palms Survey”, I learned an interesting angle on that from a relative who was a Navy officer at that time. That survey was actually intended as a way to raise a flag and alert the public (and elements within the military) to this very dangerous and growing trend. The author of the survey pretty much knew (as is the case in many such surveys) what the probable outcome would be. He wanted to find a way to prove and quantify this trend so that perhaps some would be awakened and take steps to stop it. History has shown that, aside from the Oathkeepers movement, that has continued to grow. The 29 Palms Survey was one of the first steps taken to really expose this neohitlerian trend among the armed forces and a growing list of government agencies with paramilitary units.

  4. UK Fred says:

    Thankfully, you are a teacher and not a hypocrite. The difference is the hypocrite says “Do what I tell you, not what I do” while teacher says, “Do what I tell you, not what I did”.

    When I was a child, ordinary folks thought of the professionals, the doctors, lawyers, accoountants, etc as having high moral standards and expected them to behave accordign to such standards. Now it appears that many professionals seem to think that the reason they have to know what the law says in regard to their professional work so that they can work right up to the line. It does not matter whether you have lawyers in court terrifying victims of child sex abuse to the extent that they take their own life after testifying, accountants working out the most creaticve and least likely to be discovered tax avoidance mechanisms that verge into tax evasion, or doctors whose practice is the killing of human life reather than the preservation of it.

    I have been in a similar situation and I prepared the return but refused to sign it. I made clear to my boss’s boss, who required that I prepare it that I would resign and report the error to the tax authorities if he tried to insist I signed it, using the words “I will not put my name to that return I know to be false, which leaves you with the choice of whether it is signed by someone else while I remain in emplyment here or or not.” That was when I resolved to leave that company.

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