The man had fallen near an electrified rail of a Chicago subway. Unconscious, he lay convulsing on the bare track. People on the platform above looked down, stunned. A few whipped out their cell phones to record the incident. One African American, Anthony Perry, age twenty, made a different choice. He leaped onto the track, avoiding the hotline, and saved the unconscious man. That evening the media blazed with reports of his heroism. If members of Congress had a quarter of his courage and selflessness, our democracy would be less endangered. To be specific, we have a Republican Party that lacks a moral compass, showing, instead, a marked propensity for criminal intent.
Fearing the National Rifle Association, (NRA) for too long, our weak-kneed leaders have been willing to witness the mass murder of children and innocent bystanders rather than pass meaningful gun regulations. Only recently, embarrassed by the blood running in our streets, have a few Republicans joined with Democrats to propose modest reforms. Now they expect the public to applaud though they’ve done nothing to keep assault rifles off the streets and allowed a stronger House bill to languish.
Congress’s fear to tackle the assault rifle issue is puzzling. Most voters want meaningful gun regulation. A few might fall back upon the shibboleth of state rights, but it’s a bogus excuse. Have we learned nothing from the public’s long skirmish with the cigarette industry? Commerce that flows from coast to coast doesn’t respond to patchwork regulations. That job belongs to the federal government.
Sadly, reason, logic, and courage have no purchase when they conflict with vested interests. Republican Liz Cheney’s values are an exception. Her participation in the House Select Committee investigation of the January 6 insurrection may end her political career, but she chose to do what was right for the country. Look for no similar moral compass from Fox news reporters. They refused to cover the hearing though it proved our former president, Donald Trump, not only encouraged the January 6 insurrection but instigated it with a 7-point plan. The newscasters justified their blackout believing that few cared about the facts.
Dereliction of duty has become the new norm in our democracy. Moral outrage is common. Moral behavior is in short supply. Too many assume corruption has little effect upon freedom. The assumption is false and marks the end of its existence. Pity those who live long enough to see the fruits of this corruption.
In truth, each of us is culpable. To mistake freedom for self-indulgence is dangerous. Many of us are willing to turn a blind eye to corruption if it serves our purpose. Sometimes, we knowingly elect criminals if they do our bidding.
The rising tide of self-interest makes fools of us all. Like harlots, we give our affection to those who pander to our ambitions. Politicians who pretend difficult problems like the rising tide of inflation are easily fixed are liars. No ready solution exists because the causes–the supply chain problem the pandemic created. and the Ukraine war– are beyond the control of a single nation. If we wish to recover our economy, we must close our ears to siren songs. We must stop playing Russian roulette between the political parties at each election as if change for the sake of change made a difference.
Twenty million Americans watched the House Select Committee’s first report on the January 6 insurrection. “Twenty million!” The headlines shout as if that number were extraordinary. Yet, we are a nation of 329.5 million. Where were the remaining 300 million during the hearing? How many among that number still believe the 2020 election was rigged?
As voters, too often we mistake our self-interest for freedom, preferring quick response strategies to long-term solutions. Like the children of the marshmallow experiment, we prefer a dollar in our pocket today to $10 at the end of the year. But the freedom to pursue personal happiness is a fragment of the whole. Our primary obligation isn’t to ourselves. Our obligation is to each other. Without social cohesion, we live in a jungle of individual appetites–a place where no one would dream of leaping across an electrified subway line to save the life of another.
As citizens of this democracy, we must be wary. Without a moral compass, we will soon reach the outer limits of our democracy. John F. Kennedy pointed us in the right direction decades ago. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Have we listened?
We still have time to save our nation. We can begin by voting a Democratic ticket up and down the November ballot.