No, I’m not referring to myself 🙂 I’m referring to Florida resident Joshua Basso, who celebrated Veterans Day by getting himself arrested for making obscene phone calls – to a 911 operator.
Rather than write the usual sort of Veterans Day essay you could find in virtually every newspaper yesterday – virtually identical from one to another – I thought I would use Mr. Basso’s case to see how many object lessons we can extract from it contrasting the values his actions express with the ones our veterans have fought, and continue to fight for.
Like all of us, Mr. Basso is a product of his genetics and environment. Let us assume charitably that his parents may be fairly normal and not chromosomally defective. Yet they must bear some of the blame (and surely are dying of embarrassment as I write) for raising a son who chooses to spend what I assume was his day off – if he is employed – in this way. And yet – is Mr. Basso so very different from many of the people we encounter in our lives each day? I have to wonder.
Consider that Mr. Basso appears to have been motivated by a combination of boredom and sexual desire. It is ironic that in an age with more entertainment options available than our forefathers could ever have imagined, boredom still afflicts so many of us – typically when we are left to our own devices. The majority of today’s young adults, having never learned to read English properly as children, never developed the love of reading that can turn what would otherwise be a period of tedium into a precious chance to lose one’s self in a book – available to even the poorest from a local public library. As for sexual desire, any number of sociologists can tell you that the absolution saturation of our media with sex inevitably results in an overactive sex drive, especially among males of a certain age. Contrast this with the self-discipline instilled in our military veterans.
Lacking a partner, Mr. Basso apparently decided to combine his self-gratification with what he no doubt felt was “harmless mischief” – a concept reinforced by adults when they tacitly approve of things like vandalism on Halloween. Never mind who is inconvenienced. In this case, the mischief took the form of coercing an unwilling participant – the 911 operator – into being the object of Mr. Basso’s sexual gratification. Philosophically, there is no difference between this and exposing yourself in public, or physically raping or molesting someone – only a difference of degree. Somewhere along the line, Mr. Basso failed to absorb the idea that other people’s rights and feelings matter at least as much as his own. Meanwhile, our veterans exemplify the opposite by putting their lives at risk over and over again to defend the rights and freedoms of others.
Next of course is the total obliviousness to the fact that Basso’s 911 calls might have slowed or prevented authorities from responding to a real emergency someplace, as our military does routinely. When asked why he chose 911 as his target, he explained that it was a free call. So our next count against Mr. Basso is his intention to achieve his goal and get someone else – specifically, you and me, the taxpayers, to pay for it, where a responsible person might have spent his own money on a 1-900 sex line. Contrast with our veterans, who know only too well that anything worth doing in life has a cost – a cost they have seen measured in the blood of their friends and comrades.
Finally, Mr. Basso admitted that he had made multiple calls like this in the past but never believed he would get caught. The philosophy thus espoused can best be expressed as, “Do unto others and then run.” For Mr. Basso, it was always up to some other authority to regulate his behavior, freeing him to act as he pleased bound only by his practical, not moral, ability to avoid getting caught. Our military men and women, on the other hand, are instilled with a moral code that teaches them to behave themselves even when no one is around to “catch” them.
I think what disturbed me most was Mr. Basso’s mug shot. Even allowing for the natural level of shock at being arrested and the usual 10 pounds added by the camera, what I see is a vapid, clueless individual whose double chin suggests he is not one of society’s deprived victims. Nor is he visibly a member of some persecuted minority lashing out against injustice. Look again. You probably know one or two people that look exactly like this guy. I swear one of the kids on my block will look exactly like this in about 15 years. You can almost hear the words issuing from his open mouth (their mouths are always open) -“What do you mean, my actions have consequences?”
The point I am trying to make is that Mr. Basso is not unique in our modern society, just perhaps a little dumber than most. The values and attitudes that motivated his actions – if subconsciously – are shared by a frighteningly large number of the fellow citizens we interact with every day. What is disturbing about Joshua Basso is not that he is a deviant. It is that he is the norm.
Nor am I unaware that there are always those military veterans who embarrass the rest by failing to carry forward the moral and philosophical lessons they learn while in service. In fact, I do not know for certain that Mr. Basso is not himself a military veteran. But I rather doubt it. Don’t you?