31, 2002—Ground Zero
The Terror Of Being "Right!"
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
New York City--Inside every human being is the "right
to be wrong."
It's a precarious right, teetering on the razor's edge in most
situations, but it exists as firmly as any written Constitutional
Right of Free Speech or Free Expression. This "right
to be wrong" flies in the face of conventional wisdoms,
and thrusts the individual who holds up that right as a "sore
thumb in the crowd."
to be wrong" simply means that one is doing the best he
or she can do, or thinks they can do, despite all the critics
who might admonish the efforts or criticize the methods.
also accompanies the "right to be wrong."
When one is attacked for doing something he or she thinks is
in the best interests of the community--whether it be a relationship,
a family, a neighborhood, a nation or a world--the pressures
to fold and agree with the conventional wisdom becomes oppressive.
Instead of being at the center of the universe, the person exercising
the "right to be wrong" finds themselves skulking
on the perimeter of acceptance, often alienated from the collective
conscious, or disenfranchised from it because of the differing
viewpoints, strategies, or tactics.
is at its best an exercise in the "right to be wrong."
Parents embark on their journey of parenthood with no prior
experience, no history of trial and error, so their efforts
to "do the right thing" often end up on the "wrong"
side of the ledger. When that happens, they
feel guilt and shame and embarrassment for having done the "wrong
thing" when in fact, they had no benchmark for the "right
thing." No one knows how a child will respond
to just about anything one does. The reason: each
child is unique. Each child has a different emotional
chemistry, a different "take" on life, living and
the consequences that result when people err.
operate from the same pool of uniqueness. Each parent
has his or her set of values, expectations, boundaries, consequences.
One may be liberal, the other conservative. One may allow
certain behaviors and not others, while the other accepts the
"negative" behaviors and disavows the positives.
This stress and strain
if further heightened by the fact parents are commonly male
and female--offering two different emotional viewpoints of the
same action, often resulting in two different opinions.
Thus, the "right to be wrong" best applies to the
trial and errors of child management.
Recently, I had a very
close friend who experienced the "right to be wrong"
tidal wave. She was caring for children who bonded so
close to her that they began to fight being with their parents--at
least when she was present.
She was doing everything
possible to be the best guardian, but had no control over the
child's immaturity to "cling" and "cleave."
Clinging to her in the presence of the parents cleaved the perfection
of the relationship, for it became that she was the surrogate
mother and father in such instances, and the child would kick
and scream and wail and howl as she left, demanding her presence.
She worried greatly about
the effects of such behavior, for it made her presence with
the children uncomfortable for her when she thought of the parents
coming home and the scene that would result where they literally
had to rip the child from her arms to escape. The
child's love was glue--it wouldn't unstick even when she walked
out the door for the tears and crying followed her, haunting
The first obvious question
is: What kind of parents are these? Are they
mean to the child? Do they abuse her? Do they
The answer to all the above
is "no." In fact, ironically, the parents are
very loving, very caring people who live by a standard of non-violence
and social service. Their children, when alone with
them, are "givers of love." They gush
it. But insert the third party and bond is cut,
and the glue is set.
I thought heavily about this
"right to be wrong" in the case of this guardian.
She had every right to love the child, and did no wrong under
conventional terms. Yet, there was something wrong.
Why did the child throw such a tantrum, such a fit when the
There are countless answers
one could throw at the issue, but the core message I got
from the situation was the "right to be wrong."
Despite the critics who might suggest some imparity in either
the guardian or parents, the "right to be wrong" overruled
all the dart throwers. Both the parents and guardian
were doing what they thought best--teaching love and respect
and the zest for life to the child. How the child
assimilated that information, and how it reacted to it, became
non sequester to the issue. It was the giving that
In fighting Terrorism at
an emotional as well as physical level, we also have to accept
the "right to be wrong." We have never
fought Terrorism on a national scale before, and that means
we're all inept at it. However, all of us have fought
it on a personal level--whether it be the Terrorism of being
fired, the Terror of not making enough money, the Terror of
not being loved enough--we all know the acrid taste of Terror.
We have all stumbled through
the Terror. We have exited the "other side."
We have grown from the experience, or retreated and become retarded
as a result.
When we take the Pledge
of Vigilance, it is not a guarantee we will do things "perfectly."
At best, it is a checkpoint. It is a constitutional
agreement for us to exercise the "right to be wrong."
But can we be wrong by teaching our children how to have more
courage than fear? Or, promoting more conviction
than intimidation? Or, committing ourselves to take
action rather than sit around in complacency?
It would be hard for anyone
to say the "right to be wrong" ended up wrong when
the result is the growth and evolution of a child, when caring
and compassion are the endpoints.
While one might be Terror
stricken exercising his or her right to be wrong, the end of
the road does have a pot of gold. It is called the courage
and conviction of taking action.
To Daily Diary, Jan. 30--The Freedom Corps Or The Vigilance