Are America’s ethics slipping because of role models?
By Gene Kemmeter
The New Year will greet us next week, but how “new” will it be? Likely, it will be more of the same. Yet the nation could use something “new,” or actually “renewed.”
The United States seems to have lost its ethics, the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. Hardly a day goes by now without someone questioning a person’s ethics, especially on the political front. Officials ignore recommendations of ethics committees that point out conflicts of interest.
Many issues now are being revealed as investigations delve into dealings that the public always suspected politicians were involved in, yet the public never heard details about, only innuendo. The accusations always surfaced around election time, but the actual incidents were never reported and sometimes were talking points twisting and stretching the truth.
This year there’ve been a steady stream of reports about political maneuverings and questionable practices.
In Wisconsin, the state Legislature, dominated by Republicans, held a lame-duck session and took away some of powers of the governor after Tony Evers was elected governor and before he took office. Legislators said the session was necessary to restore the authority of the Legislature so the legislative and executive powers were balanced. If they were proper before, how come they’re not now? Just because the new governor is from a different party?
In Washington, President Donald Trump has been a lightning rod on the ethics issue, yet his supporters continue their unfailing support for him.
The Washington Post newspaper began keeping track of Trump’s false and misleading claims since he took office and found he had made 6,420 of those claims through his first 649 days in office as of Oct. 30. That’s nearly 10 per day, more than any other president in history, although no one really had kept track in prior years because the situation wasn’t prevalent.
The myth of honesty prevails throughout U.S. history, starting with the tale that George Washington said “I cannot tell a lie” when asked who cut down a cherry tree. (That statement was apparently created by a biographer after the first president was dead.) Abraham Lincoln received the nickname “Honest Abe,” even though he wasn’t always honest.
Lawmakers should know that honest government is more important than survival in public office. Voters need to punish at the polls those who don’t play by the rules. The president and other governmental leaders are role models, not only in the U.S. but around the world.
Presidents lie, it’s a human trait, but Americans claim they want honest leaders, especially throughout government where people are working for the good of the nation’s residents. Americans consider honesty essential for someone to be an effective leader.
What do children and young people learn if lies are such a common occurrence that their adult role models accept them as fact or don’t care?