On Being Transparent

catching the train

It was Willie Nelson in “A Song for You” that talks about the price of fame.  Keep in mind, I am neither famous or wealthy, but I have always lived my life in the public eye.  So, people have watched me grow up and now I am growing old.  What have I learned? A lot.  I also have come to understand that the world is a cruel place filled with many good people.   Besides, there is evil out there.

I accept that countries lie to their citizens and that we are, regrettably, governed by men and women who are sometimes corrupt. That is undesirable, but it is a fact of life. Often choices made by the government are not between good and bad, but between bad and worse. We have done exactly what George Washington warned us against by embracing entangling alliances. We have largely abandoned our Judeo-Christian heritage, in fear of lawsuits and in the name of inclusion. However, we still have the rule of law, right?

I am reminded of Robert Kennedy’s speech in which he was discussing the law. He said about the law: ‘The road ahead is full of difficulties and discomforts. But as for me, I welcome the challenge. I welcome the opportunity, and I pledge to you my best effort — all I have in material things and physical strength and spirit to see that freedom shall advance and that our children will grow old under the rule of law.’

People of reason can disagree with issues and have civil discourse. ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,’ according to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Who also reminded us that culture, not politics, determines the success of society. Respect of our fellow human beings is the core outgrowth of a nation committed under a rule of law. It is our shared history in America and one in which we must be personally committed to following. That is the real lesson to teach. If we fail to pass that to the next generation, freedom, the political process, civil liberties, individual rights, and media independence will be lost to the dustbin of history and no longer tolerated.

Because I live my life transparently and almost all details of my life are readily accessible online, I have been subject to false allegations, being misquoted, words twisted or taken out of context and verbally attacked consistently.  I have even received death threats, even though I did not take them seriously.  Chances are if you post online or have any type of social media presence or operate in the public eye any of this can happen to you as well.  If you think someone has committed a crime, you should report that to law enforcement.

As any lawyer will tell you, an accusation of criminal conduct is presumed to be defamatory.  And if so, it is likely actionable.  Many times, they hide behind false identities or even fake online names and pseudonyms.  You should consider alerting law enforcement if serious and consult with an attorney.  Law enforcement, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, can unmask these identities, even if the perpetrator resides in a foreign country or uses an email provider located in a foreign country. Law enforcement is trained professionals who know how to handle these situations and what type of evidence will be required to persecute.  Finding and punishing wrongdoers is why we have law enforcement.  Call them first.

Sunlight, as the old saying goes, is the best disinfectant. I will continue to live my life in the open, willing to be subject to being misquoted and taken out of context.  Why?  Because I think most people are still basically good.  I may be naïve.  However, it is a risk worth taking—especially if you have nothing to hide.


JC Bowman is executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville.