Feeds:
Posts
Comments

What the Russian army did in the city of Bucha near the Capitol city of Kiev as they were leaving is nothing short of barbaric.

Raping women, killing men, women, and children as if they were animals, leaving dead bodies on the street, some with their hands tied behind their backs. The gruesomeness of what they did is overwhelming.

It is incomprehensible that this has happened in 2022, as if the human race has not advanced at all. Indeed, you wonder if as a species we have begun to devolve.

Ukraine should be on all our minds and in our hearts every day. That the U. S. is the primary supplier of weapons and aid is something of which all of us can be proud. An unjust war must be stopped with whatever means necessary.

At the same time, we also need to be worried about what is happening here at home.

The level and type of conflicts and divisions we are experiencing give reason to think that America is also fighting a war with itself. In a recent NYT article David Brooks described it as our country falling apart at the seams.

Whatever words we use to describe what is happening, I believe all of it reveals the fact that there is a problem with the American spirit. We are acting like broken people, angry at anything and everything, quick to lash out as if blaming someone else for our troubles will make us feel better.

If our country was ever a beacon of light in the world, that light is burning very low these days. The reasons are surely many, but I want to suggest an old fashioned one I invite you not to dismiss until you hear me out.

It is this: The root cause of our troubles is moral decline.

Not the superficial, individualistic, Puritanical moral decline evangelical Christians talk about born of their obsession with sex. That kind of narrow view of morality ignores the collective consciousness and character of the nation as a whole.

The moral decline I am talking about is social, it is about our collective moral character, with who we are as “We, the People.” There are, as I see it, two primary manifestations of this moral decline.

The first is a diminishing concern for the well-being of others.

Morality is about human relationships, about how we value and treat one another and conduct human affairs.

It goes beyond lending a helping hand to a neighbor or someone you may not even know. Concern for others means having a commitment to think about the impact our words and actions have on them.

It is true that achieving this goal, of “We, the People” including everyone, has been a work in progress since the beginning, but we had never abandoned efforts to get closer to that ideal…until now.

In the last several years, and certainly during the Trump years, we made selfishness politically acceptable. From America First to my freedom over your safety and health to good people on all sides of racism to blaming immigrants for my problems, we have elevated “me-ism” to the point where criticizing it has been labeled “woke” politics.

When Jesus described concern for others as loving your neighbor as you love yourself, he said something we don’t always pay attention to – that if you don’t like or love yourself, you are not going to like or love your neighbor.

That suggests to me that the moral decline in concern for others points to an epidemic of unconscious self-loathing that is driving the behavior of millions of Americans.

Unconscious self-loathing makes people angry, jealous, and small-minded, and more often than not they don’t even know that is who they have become.

From their perspective, life is a zero-sum game wherein if you gain, I lose. That completely crowds out sympathy, empathy, and compassion.

Politically the lack of concern for others is manifesting itself in voter suppression laws, anti-gay and anti-transgender laws, book banning efforts, anti-immigration rhetoric, even the mantra that all politicians are crooked.

These actions reflect no concern for others. They are all about community busting rather than community building, an expression of radical individualism that undermines the unity our nation needs to confront the challenges we face as a people.

If lack of concern for others were a political problem, a majority of us could vote it in. But morality doesn’t work that way. It has to do with what’s inside people, which means, moral decline necessarily has to do with what is missing. 

The second mark of moral decline is easier to identify, but no less significant. It is the loss of a commitment to telling the truth.

If you think about it, the lack of commitment to telling the truth lies at the heart of so many other problems for the simple reason that it has to do with basic integrity.

The behavior we witnessed at the Judge Jackson judiciary hearing revealed a lack of that integrity in Senators Graham, Hawley, Cruse, Blackburn, and Cotton, and it was shameful. They chose to tell lies about her rather than have enough respect to ask her legitimate questions.

The lack of commitment to telling the truth is why people questioned the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election victory when it happened and still do today. It’s why the January 6 insurrection took place.  And on and on. We have become a nation where a large segment of the population no longer believes that telling the truth is a fundamental moral principle to which they hold themselves.

They dress up their lack of commitment with euphemisms for lying. Phrases such as “alternative facts” and misinformation” have become regular descriptions of behavior today as if a person peddling either is not telling lies. Politicians who get caught telling lies excuse themselves by claiming they “misspoke.”

Telling the truth necessarily means a lie is a lie is a lie. Euphemisms don’t change that fact. They don’t make a lie something it isn’t. Telling a lie is morally wrong regardless of how someone labels it, and it has a corroding effect on American society.

What is stunning is the naivete of so many Americans who seem to believe that a society can survive when it no longer values telling the truth, when integrity of character is no longer considered a qualification for office.

This is what has to stop, and the way to do that is to reassert telling the truth and concern for others as the essential qualifications for choosing our public leaders, from president all the way down to local officials.

Unless and until we demand the nation’s leaders at every level be people of integrity who tell the truth in public and who have a record proving their concern about others, we will continue our moral decline that will lead us to no good end.

Choosing leaders can no longer be based solely on party affiliation. Instead, it must be based on a commitment from candidates to rebuild our national character so that “We, the People” are represented by leaders who reflect the best about us as a people.

If we allow anything short of that to determine who we support and how we vote, the end of America as we know it will be on us.