Try not to kill anybody

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: Nov 06, 2006 2:10 PM
Try not to kill anybody

The first principle of the Hippocratic Oath, which all physicians are sworn to abide by, is: Do no harm. I don’t want to be regarded as a nitpicker, but, as standards go, I’d say that’s a pretty measly one.

Do no harm?! For crying out loud, Boy Scouts at least have to be prepared. Soldiers are expected to be all they can be, and while I think we’d all agree that’s pretty vague as to specifics, the basic tone suggests that courage and self-sacrifice could well be part of the job description.

And although I don’t know it for a fact, logic would dictate that being a member of the 4-H Club would at the very least require feeding the chickens, slopping the pigs, and washing one’s hands before sitting down at the breakfast table.

I mean, what if something that inconsequential was the first principle of other occupations? What if accountants had to be admonished not to round off numbers to the nearest zero, and bus drivers were told to really knuckle down and not run into any lampposts? How would you like it if chefs graduating from culinary academies were handed their diplomas, their puffy white caps, and a friendly piece of advice from the dean along the lines of “Remember, arsenic is not a condiment”?

How about barbers? Would it put your mind to rest if you discovered that the first principle in their handbook was a reminder that they’re not matadors, and it’s not recommended that they take home a bagful of ears at the end of the day?

This is not to say that we should all stand around and ridicule physicians simply because the Mafia apparently has slightly higher expectations of its members than the AMA has. While we can all agree that the doctors’ motto leaves something to be desired, things could be a lot worse. Take criminal defense attorneys. Please, as Henny Youngman used to say.

When a person devotes his life to employing all the skill and guile at his command in order to spring killers, rapists and pedophiles, doesn’t it make you wonder what sort of oath he took? What could it possibly have been? What words do these shysters live by? Get the money up front? Hey, he didn’t kill me!? Don’t worry about divine justice, God is dead?

Which brings us at last to politicians. Like doctors, they, too, have a code of conduct. In their case, it’s known as the Hypocritical Oath, and its first and only principle is: Don’t get caught.