By Vernon A. Williams
Here’s one you can take to the bank. If there is to be any hope for coming generations, it must begin with our reverting to the principle that honesty is the best policy. Who could imagine that we could stray this far from such a simple ideal – that truth would become an anathema while corruption, deception and complicit acquiescence are becoming a more accepted mode of operation.
Children are growing up in a world in which the first African American president is brutally maligned before, during and after he is in office – questioning his religious affiliation and birthplace while insulting the first lady calling her “an ape in high heels.”
To the contrary, children are living during a time in which the leader of the free world in just over two years is documented to have expressed purposeful misleading information or bald-faced lies over 8,000 times without being held accountable.
Youth today live in a world where it is commonplace to cheat on your taxes, cheat on your career mobility, cheat on your spouses or companions, cheat in sports or other competitions, cheat on your business dealings, and yet students are unforgivingly condemned for cheating on a test. Your hypocrisy does not go unnoticed.
A world in which a premium is placed on truthfulness and integrity is one in which personal responsibility takes on new meaning. The ultimate verifier of the worth placed on honesty is the severity of consequences for those who violate those principles.
Case in point, how can you tell youth that it’s justifiable for law enforcement to harass, attack or shoot and kill unarmed, innocent people of color when in the next breath you urge young people to shun violence and settle disputes through constructive engagement?
An Ohio cop wouldn’t even communicate a warning to a Black 12-year-old boy with a toy pistol before gunning him down in the park two-seconds after leaping from his squad car.
Those you are vying to make good citizens are young, but they are not stupid. To their credit, they reject the suggestion that one life is more valuable than another. When you insist on the position that they are lower in the food chain, the reaction is predictable – many surrender and live DOWN to your expectations.
Most totally agree that honesty is the key but too many feel overwhelmed by how far we have gone from fundamentals and can’t imagine a path back to the right road. I understand the frustration. We have an amazing circumstance in the White House in which lawyers for the incumbent abjectly refuse to allow 45 to testify in ongoing investigations concerning ties to Russia because he would commit the crime of perjury.
Lawyers won’t let the leader of the free world testify because they are certain he will lie. Really? The president of the United States is such a pathological liar that having him simply sit up in front of interrogators and tell the truth as he knows it is out of the question. There is not only the assumption of dishonesty but the acceptance of it. What in the world is going on?
Kevin Madden, a veteran GOP strategist, says part of it is “the atomized, 24-second news cycle where the speed of digitized platforms and the compressed attention spans of the audience have us careering from one controversy and outrage to the next.” In other words, perpetrators are encouraged to just wait it out – the public will soon get over it.
Michael Feldman, a Democratic strategist who worked on Al Gore’s presidential campaign, says it’s a sign that we’re just surrounded by so much scandal – starting with Trump’s Russia investigation and other scandals – that the shock value has worn off. Truly sad. It suggests that dishonesty is the new normal and has become entrenched.
The third challenge is what some call “hyper partisanship.” With Republican and Democratic heels dug in on issues big and small, and legislatures and electoral votes hanging on razor thin margins, neither side has reason to toss one of their own overboard too fast when scandals break. Translation: Party loyalty trumps principles. Case closed.
Before invoking the “Jesus will fix it” idiom and resting your head peacefully on your largest Gideon Bible, marinate on the fact that some of those contributing to this moral malaise are the very people who tout titles of being men and women of God. The so-called evangelicals are totally complicit in the moral crisis we face.
And that misfortunate truth withstanding, the Lord says faith without works is dead. So no matter how strong your devotion, He insists that you can’t just sit down. Do something! The solution may be as simple as A-B-C.
- Let’s make everyone from the local dog catcher to the president more Accountable for their actions and increase our national commitment to thoroughly address and resolve.
- Encourage broader societal thought processes that retain fundamental, common sense standards while incorporating non-traditional, Bold new expectations and repercussions.
- Make real our national obligation of “freedom and justice for all” by assuring fair Consequences across the board for perpetrators – despite race, wealth or affiliation.
This writing is not to provide a panacea. There is no silver. It is intended rather to launch serious dialogue. Weigh these modest mentions against much better solutions that you may have to offer. But whatever you do, don’t turn a deaf ear to the American crisis of eroding principles. Without immediate and serious attention, the decadence will only worsen. And that’s no lie.