So I read something last night about a teacher in China who was fired from his job and virtually ex-communicated in his town because of his actions during the devastating earthquake that killed 70,000 people in May.
But I believe in giving credit where it's due, so I might not have remembered to write something about this if Footy, a chat show host, hadn't brought it up on the radio this morning as I drove to work.
Here's the deal: Fan Meizhong taught at a private high school in Dujiangyan. When the earthquake hit, Fan hit the
fan bricks, bolted from the classroom like O.J. in a Hertz commercial and left the kids behind. He didn't even call out over his shoulder "follow me, boys!"
Surprisingly, Fan acknowledged later in an interview that he was indeed the first person out of the school building and onto the nearby soccer field.
Nothing about earthquakes is funny, but I have to admit that when I heard this story I immediately thought of George "the hero" Costanza. If you don't remember "The Fire" episode of Seinfeld, you'll get the point in the first 60 seconds of this video.
While George got a second chance with his girlfriend, Fan has since been fired, and parents and other residents of Sichuan have verbally thrashed him for cowardice. Some have pointed to other teachers at other schools who reportedly died trying to protect the kids in their classrooms during the earthquake.
They've even nicknamed him "Running Fan."
So my snap judgment is that Fan's critics are correct. He took the punk's way out, scramming like Road Runner and not even taking the kids with him.
Something fascinating about Fan though is his attitude. He has zero shame about what he did. In fact, he's basically said "damn right I ran! I'd do it again, too!" Reuters reports that Fan wrote on a Web chat portal "At such a life-or-death moment, I would only consider sacrificing my life for my daughter. I would not do it for anyone else, even my mother."
"...even my mother."
So here's the question: is Fan a terrible person, hands down, or does he deserve something, anything, for his brutal honesty?
I know, for example, that if you ask me during a peaceful moment how I'd react if a disaster struck my room full of people, I'd tell you that I'd try to help the weakest and I'd take a lesson from the Marine Corps and leave no one behind. And I'd mean it. Why? 'Cause that response is the right thing to say...and do.
Not excusing Fan, but faced with a real disaster and not just conversation about one, can any of us say for certain that we wouldn't go into automatic self preservation mode? I can't. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't pull a Fan or a Costanza. I'm pretty sure my feet would remember my words. I hope they would.
Yeah, Fan's a punk, a buster, any name you wanna call him for leaving the kids behind. But he made his case: I'd trade my life for my daughter's 'cause she's important to me, and none of the rest of you are. So one more time, does Fan regain a half a point for at least being bluntly honest and not even pretending to be a hero, or should he just pack it in and go live in isolation in a cave somewhere?