What obligation do we have if we see something to say something?
What are we supposed to do when we see something or hear something that is wrong and should be reported to authorities? Do we look the other way or report the incident? These are important questions as our society has gone from fraying around the edges to unraveling completely.
During the year before I began teaching, a scandal broke wide open in my community's school district. Several male teachers at a public high school were charged with sexually abusing a number of their female students. Before the crisis was over, several employees lost their jobs, one was imprisoned, and the superintendent was fired for trying to cover up the situation.
After I was hired, I was sent to a new-teacher orientation where the leaders hammered into our heads new protocols concerning appropriate and inappropriate teacher-student interactions. The school board warned us that we were legally bound to report any hint of inappropriate teacher-student interactions to the administration. We were told to tattle or snitch on our colleagues if we saw or heard anything inappropriate.
During my lifetime, the "street" had taught me that "tattling" or "snitching" was uncool. My new bosses told us it was mandatory upon the pain of losing our teaching gigs. Teachers were caught between "to snitch" and "not to snitch." That was the tension.
Many governments understandably call on responsible adults to snitch to protect public safety. The street tells us to look the other way, but The Good Book urges us not to wink at sin. In Ezekiel 33, the prophet tells us we are responsible for what we know.
One of our former presidents had a "bimbo eruption squad" tasked with intimidating victims of his womanizing. President Putin has a history of jailing or even killing those who dare to snitch on him. Political thugs are not the only ones to worry us. One of the reasons crime is so rampant in our cities involves witnesses' fear about reporting crime.
The principle that the accused gets to face his accuser, embedded in our legal system, discourages many witnesses from coming forward to report a crime. Self-preservation is a strong instinct, and I can understand why community members are hesitant to report crime when it can be life-endangering.
Tip lines, video surveillance, and laws protecting whistleblowers are modern means investigators have developed to help protect those who want to shed light on wrongdoing.
Uncool as it may be, we are still responsible for what we know. Pejorative as the terms "tattling" and "snitching" sound, daylight is good, and many of the things done in darkness are wrong. Jesus said, "People love darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil."
When a teenage friend recently told me, "Snitching is not cool," his comment troubled me. This topic makes everyone uncomfortable because no one wants to be labeled as a snitch, yet we know all too well how much is wrong with our world. Wrong rarely disappears without the light treatment. Exposing Wrong with Light will not inspire many rap songs, but people like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used illumination to inspire us and make this world a better place.