Opinion: Just because they can?


Through a spokesman, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently issued an ominous warning to we U.S. citizens. It seems that the tenacious Ukrainians have made use of some American-made weapons that we shared in humiliating their would-be occupiers and spurring an exasperated Putin to threaten the United States with “fatal consequences” and global conflict for not standing on the sidelines as Russia expands its boundaries as and when it sees fit. Threatening planet-wide thermonuclear war may seem a bit excessive. But who is going to stop him?

Closer to home, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett recently reversed direction on his once-effusive support for the local professional soccer team Indy Eleven to instead pursue a more grandiose script with “undisclosed” partners for a “confidential” plan. The flip-flop is supported by a few, elicits incredulousness from many and confounds almost everyone. The move by the local politician and attorney to become a real estate mogul may seem a bit of an unexpected left turn. But who is going to stop him?

Others cheat on, or beat on, their spouses, because “what are they going to do about it?” The same is true for taking up multiple parking spaces, dishonesty in a business deal or kicking a dog. Justifications might include that they”deserved” it; the car was new; it is “only” business; or the canine was in our way. They all conceal the ugly truth of our motivation. Most of us act — occasionally, anyway — not from the pious nature of our moral character but from impulse. We bully and threaten just because we can. Do we enjoy the rush we get from the exercise of power, imagined or otherwise, more than we care about the dissolving social and institutional restraints on our desires?  If we cannot stop bullying, all of us lose.