We apologize immediately. In college, while we did study political science, it was a minor rather than a major effort. What this means is that what follows is based on distant memory and on current atmosphere.
What we are trying to do today is track the halcyon days of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency to the presidency of Donald Trump. And the particular railroad we want to ride has to do with the deflowering of good manners, the ability to “fess up,” the lack of punishment at all levels of society for deeds, words, and schemes that gradually, over the past seventy-five years have come to be considered common occurrences, “the way things are.”
What brings us to this review is the current state of total irresponsibility for anything by anybody.
This we believe is not simply our own reading of life in these United States today. Millions of men and women are now too used to watching terrible things happen to themselves and others, and thereafter understanding that no one is hauled in by a judge or a D.A, or becomes the object of a civil suit, able to accept responsibility for bad thinking and worse doing.
Simple examples: the mini-crash (although the effects were “maxi”) of 2007/2008. Banks, realtors, manufacturers: automobile companies, loan officers, trade organizations. What has happened to those who took advantage of the moment and skated free thereafter has also become – to the public –obvious and unsatisfactory. It costs comparatively little to admit “a mistake was made” and to be fined by the Federal government (where does this money go?) upwards of millions of dollars without ever once admitting “wrong-doing.” Paying off the Feds is far cheaper than being hauled into court on individual cases and squandering a fortune on attorneys to appear before juries whose sympathies are with the plaintiffs, not the defense.
Even Wells Fargo evidently found a bargain by “fessing up” that some of its low-level employees (it’s always the low level employees who are blamed and, thereafter, fired) hustled customers to open accounts they neither needed nor even knew about. However many millions Wells Fargo was forced to pay was chicken feed for a company sitting on billions of deposited dollars and real estate securities. All they had to do was wait a few days and then open a massive PR campaign, apologizing (of course) and promising “it” would never again happen. (Brooklyn Bridges were sold all across the nation.)
The point we are making is that business and industry are getting away with “highway robbery” but alas they are seen to be doing this without being penalized in any meaningful fashion. Time passes and they are free to start all over again.
What does this do to the sense of justice and fair play that millions of Americans have been struggling to maintain?
The financial and industrial miscreants are seen to be getting theirs by lying, cheating, stealing.
Add to this public service figures who are increasingly pushed upwards into the millionaire class by the same methods: lying, cheating, stealing. None of these people either is being “disciplined.” Congress itself was willing to do away with Ethics altogether until the public started stamping its feet.
Our new president lies reflexively without any hesitation or sense of guilt. When called out, he dares his opposition to try to fight him.
Is it any wonder that a Kansan with a revolver decides he, too, could “walk down Fifth Avenue and kill someone” without being arrested, impounded, or punished in any way?
Or that an anti-Semite amuses himself by telephoning schools and community centers with threats (so far, only hoaxes) of implanted bombs?
Or that a man, weapon in hand, doesn’t even have to get out of his car to kill a kid whose radio he deems is playing too loudly?
Or that a gymnastics instructor can molest children for years at a time, knowing that what turns him on hardly appears in any cannon of disputed behavior?
Even in “LaLaLand,” the heroine flips the hero a finger automatically before they later “meet cute.”
If no one, for any reason, is ever penalized, punished, shamed, imprisoned or even fined and disciplined for egregious and anti-social behavior, why shouldn’t Sam Smith or Loretta Jones do exactly the same thing?
Following Mr. Eisenhower’s sunny days we became embroiled in Viet Nam. The Democratic administrations which followed chose not to hear the outrage of its citizens. The Republicans who then assumed a position of authority (Mr. Nixon, the “crook”) tried to slide around the US Constitution. “Tricky Dick” lost his cool, but not to the extent of being unable to resuscitate himself internationally. Gerald Ford never had a chance. Jimmy Carter was laughed at for trying to uphold Biblical perspectives. The Blessed Reagan started his first term with a recession and ended embroiled (but unpunished) in trading arms for hostages.
One honorable man followed “The Comeback Kid’s” moral meltdown. Following this an administration lied to the entire world and went to war against an undeserving and uninvolved enemy. Thousands of our men died as neo-cons in D.C. never even had the grace to admit error. Under the guise of prudence, the next administration was unable to make diplomatic or even minimally effective moral statements.
As a nation we have always looked at our leaders as trail-blazers, as examples of morality, decency, honesty. When that is no longer possible, is it any wonder that daily life becomes rougher, less moral, and comes to us all in the guise of vitriol and violence?
What the Sam Hill are we going to see next?
What are we going to do next?