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Tuesday, 06 April 2010 18:23

Hang ‘Em in the Town Square

Written by Lee Amaradio, Jr.

One of my favorite movies was the Western miniseries Lonesome Dove, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall along with Robert Urich and Danny Glover. This was a story of the legendary Texas Rangers and the old West. There were several great parts but a theme throughout the entire movie was that these men had a bond that was all about integrity and honor. There is a scene that comes to mind where they were forced, because of their integrity, to hang one of their friends because he had stepped outside of the law and, most importantly, he had breached their unwritten code of honor. 

In a statement just before being hanged, Jake says to Gus, “Hey Gus, I was just trying to stay alive” and Gus replied, “I believe you, Jake but you know the rules. ‘If you ride with outlaws you die with them.’ You stepped over the line Jake.”
The interesting thing is that Jake did know the rules and that was pretty much the end of the discussion and so they hanged their friend. In fact, Jake helped them hang him by spurring his own horse.

Did they hang him for taking part in the murder of two sod-busters or for not doing something to stop the murders? They hung him because he had breached their code of honor and did nothing while watching two innocent men die. To these men their honor meant more to them then their own lives. Jake knew this and accepted his fate. With the noose around his neck he spurred his own horse so his friends wouldn’t need to. The meaning was clear. He was saying ‘I understand’ and ‘I’m sorry.’ He may have been trying to alleviate whatever guilt they may have felt. These are the kind of men that formed our country. Men that wouldn’t stand for injustice. These men were men of honor and integrity and valued their word above all else. Today, we have drifted so far away from honor and integrity that unless you are watching a vintage war movie we rarely even hear the words. 
Another movie comes to mind, starring Sean Connery, called The Wind and the Lion. There was a scene at the end where Sean Connery’s counterpart says, “Great One we have lost everything,” and Sean Connery smiles as he replies, “My friend, have you found nothing in life worth losing everything for?”
With that they both let out big smiles and were on their way. The meaning that I got was, yes, I have lost everything! But it was worth it, because they believed in what they stood for. It was all about their honor.
Integrity and honor are priceless. They cannot be bought or sold. Either you have them or you don’t. Either you’re doing it the right way, or you’re not.
It’s not about telling everyone how honest you are it’s about owning up to your mistakes and being accountable. My Dad taught me that my word was my bond and a handshake was something honorable and to keep my word because it is the most import thing I have.
Somewhere we have gotten off track and most gang members have a better sense of honor than most businessman. If this were not true we wouldn’t need to put everything in writing. It’s because our honor has diminished to a point where a man’s word means very little.
What I liked about the old west was that judgment was swift. They didn’t have child killers becoming celebrities with a ton of lawyers waiting in line to defend them. I liked it better when they would storm the town jail and drag the bad guy out and hang him in the town square. We were still under the same constitution and it was still the same America, except there was swift accountability that was driven by honor and integrity.
I was telling my wife that because of the recession all of my efforts to help change the collision industry have been for nothing. I was complaining that nothing has changed, except now I have a giant bull’s eye on my back.
She set me straight and told me what I accomplished wasn’t about everyone else. It was about me doing what I thought was right. I could lose everything and still hold my head up knowing that I did, or tried to do, the right thing. 
Everything isn’t always about money and “success is only a matter of one’s own perception.” I mean, no matter how successful I may think I am, there are many social circles where I would not be considered very successful. So everything becomes about who we are and what we stand for and how valuable our integrity and our honor are to us.
I know that there are many people that say, “it’s just business,” or “I don’t make the rules.” Well, I have news for you. If you don’t make the rules who does? Does this mean now there are no rules? No, there are rules and there is accountability and we will reap what we sow. Remember the ‘Golden Rule.’ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. “We want the buck no matter what” is just not right.
Where did this all go wrong? We have all watched a subtle change throughout  our financial world and we have come to accept the lack of integrity and honor as acceptable business practice. We need to wake up and go back to the Lonesome Dove days when our “word” not our “net worth” was what defined us. 
My Dad once said to me, “Hey son, it won’t do you any good to be the richest guy in the graveyard.”
It took some time for me to understand what he was telling me. Were my priorities mixed up, or was I just working too hard? What he meant was I was working too hard for the wrong reasons. It’s not about our stuff, it’s about who we are, and money doesn’t make the man.
It really doesn’t matter how much money you make, but it does matter, how you make it. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?  When we are required to sell ourselves out to stay in business then it’s time to get out of business. We need to regain our perspective and add honor and integrity to the way we repair vehicles. How much money will someone trade for their life? The answer, all of it. So when we start talking about safety and the safety of others excuses will not cut it.
If there were a hospital director that hired a staff of doctors that continued to harm patients because neither he nor they had the proper training or equipment necessary, they would be removed from their positions. They could have the best intentions but intentions mean nothing without the training and equipment necessary to do the job.
When it comes to collision repair, “safety” is a big issue and knowing the proper way to repair a collision-damaged car and using the proper equipment is a priority. There are too many shops that think they can remain in business with the “status quo” and really aren’t investing in their futures. It is “wrong” if you “fail to do what is right” when you repair your customers’ vehicles. We need to quit making excuses and give our customers the repair they trusted us for and start wearing our integrity like a badge of honor.
Otherwise, when the victims say “get a rope,” and we’re under the tree, we’re going to have to spur our own horses.