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Are We Losing Our Moral Bearing?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

compass.gifMorality is character and conduct such as is required by the circle or community in which the man's life happens to be placed. It shows how much good men require of us.
~ Henry Ward Beecher, Life of Thoughts, 1858
When you're paid to do a job, it is my belief that you should give your employer no less than one hundred percent of your effort. He's paying and so he deserves it. When you're in the private sector, your business is none of my business. What you do on your own time has no baring on me our my life. But, what about public servants? Do we hold these folks to a higher standard? Should we? Many argue that because these people are receiving public funds in exchange for their services, they should be held to a higher moral code than the rest of society. I tend to agree with this.
If you have been chosen to fill an office in the public sector, your job is to represent the people and to do the people's business. A higher expectation is therefore placed upon you. If you fail to do a good job and your name is splashed across the front pages of newspapers, it reflects poorly on your employer, too. People tend to associate others with their occupations. I don't know why, but that's just the way we are. To further illustrate this point, my employer explained to me that while I'm out with friends after work I need to mind my manners if I'm wearing anything with their logo on it. He said that even though I'm technically not on the clock, people don't see that. All they see is somebody that works for Company X getting arrested for whatever reason. He explained to me that the association is automatically made in their minds... so just don't do it. He's right. We do this without even realizing it.
The same is true of people who work in government. Lets look at two examples. Let's say that we have a man named John Doe who works for a donut maker we'll call The Hole Donut. John finds himself constantly running out of month before he runs out of money. John decides to supplement his income by embezzling money from his employer. He gets caught and the cops haul him away. Tragic? Yes. But, do you really care that John embezzled money? Probably no more than as a passing curiosity. If I asked you in five minutes to relate this story to me it would sound something like, "There was this guy, John Something-or-Another, who stole money from a donut maker. He got caught. End of story."
Now, let's look at another example. Let's say we have a congresswomen who misappropriated public funds to pay for the airfare of a guest speaker. Had she not been caught by a watch group, the money would have never been repaid. She has since promised to return the money and to pay an additional fine for misappropriating the funds. Most people tend to get outraged when they hear stories similar to this. They feel that the public trust has been betrayed and the person should be removed from their position to return things to normal. While it may not directly effect them, people feel a connection to the incident because it involves government and taxpayer's money. They feel a personally slighted and I don't blame them. I do, too.
Do we hold people up to a higher standard when they are in a position of power or public trust? Undoubtedly.
So it came as a great surprise to learn that a man in the department of Homeland Security was arrested for what appears to be a case of seducing what he thought was a teenage girl. From this article we learn:

Brian J. Doyle, 55, was arrested at his residence in Maryland on charges of use of a computer to seduce a child and transmission of harmful material to a minor. The charges were issued out of Polk County, Fla.

Doyle, of Silver Spring, Md., had a sexually explicit conversation with what he believed was a 14-year-old girl whose profile he saw on the Internet on March 14, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

The article continues into greater detail, but I'll let you read it on your own time. What I wanted to highlight was the fact that here we have a man who is the fourth-ranking official in the department's public affairs office at one of the most powerful departments in the United States Government getting charged with using a computer to seduce a child and transmitting harmful material to a minor. If there were anyone who "should have known better," it would be this guy. His job, after all, was deputy press secretary for the U.S. department of Homeland Security. Wikipedia explains that a press secretary is an "advisor (usually to a politician) who provides advice on how to deal with the media and, using news management techniques, helps them to maintain a positive public image and avoid negative media coverage." Again, if anyone should have known the effects of getting caught up in a scandal like this, it would be Mr. Doyle.
More and more it seems we are seeing stories of public servants failing to uphold the public's trust. We, as a nation, are losing our moral compass. I'm reminded of a quote I read awhile back that said, "When law becomes despotic, morals are relaxed, and vice versa." (HonorĂ© De Balzac) Here's a question for you to ponder: Is our loss of morality leading to what we can plainly see as creeping despotism, or is that creeping despotism leading to the loss of our morality? Either way you slice it, we have an indisputable loss of morality and creeping despotism in this country.
Before I close this post, I wanted to raise a concern my wife brought to my attention that I thought was profound in it's implications to national security. She asked what would have happened if, instead of it being a sting operation by a sheriff's office, it had been a terrorist organization that had ensnared a senior official at Homeland Security? Terrorists could conceivably blackmail their way into this country by leveraging all this evidence against that individual. Could you imagine this unfolding? Members of al Qaeda would have in their possession recordings of a senior DHS official seducing a little girl over the internet. They could send copies of this in an envelope with a threat to go public with it if he doesn't turn a blind-eye to their entering this country. This man would be faced with the moral decision of either getting caught seducing a little girl, effectively destroying his marriage and career, or allowing these terrorists to pass into this country. This man would become their puppet if he ever consented to their demands. The many ways this scenario could play out are almost unimaginable. This, dear reader, is why we, the people, demand a higher level of morality from our public servants.


Blogger Mark said...

1. Great graphic.

2. I agree about holding public officials to a very high standard of conduct for all the reasons you mention.

3. It is beyond me why the Homeland Security Department, or any other government agency, would hire anyone as a "deputy press secretary" to help them "maintain a positive image". The work of the agency should be sufficient so that propaganda is not required. This is also an out-and-out waste of taxpayers' money.

7:32 PM  

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