01/24/2012 03:50 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Code of Misconduct

About six months ago I started a new job. As part of the orientation process, I recently had to attend a corporate code-of-conduct seminar, during which we were instructed on what constitutes appropriate or inappropriate behavior, both in and out of the workplace. It was largely common-sense information. I mean, deep down, most of us know what's right and what's wrong. For instance, it's never OK to call someone "stupid" or "ugly," unless, of course, you do it behind his or her back. My mother raised me properly, after all.

Upon exiting the seminar, I began thinking about some of the public figures who could have benefited from a class on proper on-the-job behavior.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, a video surfaced of four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of some suspected Taliban soldiers. Personally, I don't find the urinating part to be all that offensive. War makes people do things that they wouldn't do under normal circumstances. Plus, if the activities of the Taliban are anything similar to what we have been told, their on-the-job behavior is horrendous, which makes it difficult to feel any sympathy for them. The rationale behind making a video of the urinating Marines and posting it on You Tube completely escapes me, however. Why would you want documented evidence of your on-the-job misdeeds floating around in cyberspace to be endlessly imbedded, viewed, and scrutinized?

In early January, while on the job delivering his "State of the World" address to members of the Diplomatic Corps, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about something that could potentially "threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself." Oddly enough, he wasn't referring to the systematic cover-up of a history of priest-on-altar-boy molestation by perhaps the largest and most influential religious organization on the planet. The pope was speaking about same-sex marriage. As usual, however, this claim is completely unsubstantiated, as the pope fails to give even one example of how marriage equality would do any of the damage he alleges. It's an utterly reckless statement, yes, but it doesn't matter; the faithful will continue to hang on his every word.

Rep. Michele Bachmann remained a congresswoman while recently campaigning for the presidency, so, technically, she was on the job, even though she was obviously shirking her duties, traveling around the U.S. looking for a better job, completely funded by donor contributions while still drawing a salary. As if that weren't offensive enough, during a campaign stop Bachmann was asked, by an Iowa high school student, why same-sex couples can't get married (which they presently can in Iowa, by the way). Bachmann's reply was, "They can get married, but they have to abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they're a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they're a man." This is inappropriate on a couple of levels. First of all, it's ridiculous. More importantly, however, it exposes the fact that Bachmann, despite all of her handwringing and proselytizing about protecting traditional marriage, really has no respect for it, whatsoever. She would rather people enter into fraudulent, loveless marriages that are doomed to result in broken homes and damaged lives than see consenting adults have equal rights under the law. How could she possibly have represented all people as president of the United States?

These are but a few examples of recent on-the-job missteps. Sadly, bad behavior on the job has been around for quite some time. Imagine the embarrassment, vilification, and, in some cases, jail time that could have been avoided if people like Bernie Madoff, Mary Kay Letourneau, Lindsay Lohan, Jerry Sandusky, Sarah Palin, Pontius Pilate, Bill Clinton, and Monica Lewinsky had all been required to attend workplace code-of-conduct seminars. I'm being facetious, of course. I doubt that any amount of coaching would have prevented them from doing whatever they wanted.

In a perfect world, we'd treat each other with the same level of respect, and no one would discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, or age -- in or out of the workplace. I doubt such a lofty goal will ever be achieved, but a jaded secular humanist can dream, can't he?