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The Moral Middle: Divisive National Leadership


We have become a vindictive and vengeful people. A country that embraces and upholds lies. In the last six and a half years, the ethics and moral fiber of our nation has diminished and those that we trust with our national ethos, have shown us the way.

The first President that I voted for was Ronald Regan but my memory goes as far back as John F. Kennedy. In fact, I am quite surprised at how much of the Kennedy era angst that I can still remember. In all of my memories however, the worst time for this country was during the Viet Nam War. It was a harsh time. Toward the end of that war, there was open rebellion in the streets and college campus’ across this country. National Guard troops actually opened fire on American Citizens. It was a very confusing and conflicted time.

Today, the gestalt of this great nation “feels” very similar. We don’t have the daily body count being broadcast on national TV and the monthly riots are no longer associated with Viet Nam, but we are suffering nevertheless. There is a harshness, a defiance, a feeling of mistrust and anger toward not just the government but toward each other. We have become a divided nation. That division splits many different ways. We, the people of the United States, have become black or white, rich or poor, male or female, legal or illegal, Christian or advocates of science. We have become adherents of diversity but haters of whites, especially if they are male, republican, Christians. We have become either Constitutionalists or haters of our own past. We have become either Democrats, Republicans, or just plain fed up.

How did we get here? Todd McKinnon, CEO of Leadership Sets Tone wrote: “Culture is shaped mostly by how your leaders act…”

Is the leadership (or lack thereof) coming out of Washington contributing to our downfall into a nation of vociferous factions?

Telling is the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Normally the passing of major national legislation is the result of give and take between the parties who arrive at a somewhat mutually agreeable positon. This was not the case with the ACA. Through a series of events where the Democrats gained and lost the super majority multiple times, the ACA finally cleared both houses and was signed into law by the President. Along the way there was a lot of political machinations; even a vote on Christmas Eve! The passing of the bill was done without a single Republican in agreement. To quote Forbes; “The rancor has not abated since.”

Winning the battle without compromise solidified President Obama’s leadership style and he has embraced it. Unilateral governance has now become standard fare. Any opposition is quickly redirected. In the past, whenever there was an issue, he continued to blame it on President Bush. Those that were enamored of him, believed him. When it became ineffective for him to blame Bush, he started blaming the Republicans. Eager to please, the Republicans actually became the lackey adversarial group that they were touted to be. The ensuing political climate has been extremely adversarial and bitter.

With the reelection campaign came another telling incident. People and groups started giving money to help the Republicans. The President responded with a “list of enemies.” These eight individual donors were aggressively attacked by the IRS, the Department of Labor and even the Justice Department. The Obama administration got away with it. A pattern thus emerged in which organizations that presented opposition were summarily dealt with and the IRS scandal hit the conservative talk shows. The government itself seemed to have adopted a pack mentality. Through this, our nation has learned that it is OK to attack those who dare to disagree with us. We have been shown that it is appropriate to be vengeful and vindictive.

Benghazi entered the scene just before the re-election was to take place. We all have fixed in our mind a picture of the President standing before us on national television and straight faced saying that he would share with us everything he knew just as soon as he found out. For the next several weeks his minions were trotted out to tell us that the attack on Benghazi was a spontaneous event, precipitated by an unpopular video that had gotten out of hand. It was not. We knew it was a lie at the time; it was not the first. Lying had already become part of our national culture. We accepted this new lie just as we had the myriad of ones that proceeded it because to admit the lie would verify what we as a nation were becoming.

There are other governmental and national traits that seem to mimic the President’s action. The GAO and its parties seem to go along with President Obama flying Air Force One to attend a ball game and Michelle Obama’s taking the family and friends to Italy for a vacation. And then there is the Secret Service. Well, the list goes on.

The Republican and Democratic members of Congress have done their part in perpetuating the division of our citizens. Lies have come from both. Both have joined the Executive in becoming vengeful party puppets to the point that a healthy dialogue has become rare. Politics has been reduced to a fracas rivaling a professional wrestling match. In fact, the sincerity and entertainment value is about the same.

In How Leadership can positively affect Culture, it speaks to leaders in saying: “People observe what you do, not just what you say…”

I submit that examples from those who we look to for leadership have contributed to us becoming a nation prone to lying, vengeance and vindictiveness. Calls for vengeance against those who disagree with us are common place. How often are companies being pressured to fire someone because of an opposing or unpopular political viewpoint? How often are a person’s business or livelihood attacked for the same reason? It matters not that the opinion may have some validity. The effort to understand, and therefore fairly evaluate an opposing opinion, is seldom made. We, as a society, are shutting down discussion and debate in favor of lemming like “follow the leader” servitude. Hope and Change are becoming Silence and Fear.

President Harry S Truman said: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lies in fear.

Are we going down that road? Are we trying to silence the voice of opposition? Are you? We have always been a little like this but, it has gotten decidedly worse in the past six plus years. I submit that we have, at least partially, learned this behavior from our current national leaders. Not all of them, but certainly a large number. There are still sincere members of Congress who struggle with the daily idiocy and dysfunction of our narcissistic government. But those that are being heard are the ones causing the problem.

In “How Does Leadership Affect the Ethics of a Corporation?” By Thomas Metcalf, we learn: “The ethical standard of a business is an integral part of its culture, which is determined largely by company leadership — past and present.”

Our ethical standard in political interactions is abysmal. With a little thought, it is easy to see how our elected leaders are contributing to us to becoming a vindictive, negative and just plain ornery nation. A divided nation that parrots lies, spews discord across the Internet and is learning to hate our neighbors.

Why? Why are we allowing our constitutionally subservient leaders to act this way and, just as important, why are we mimicking them?


Samuel Waen Jensen

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About Waen

Educated through Golden Gate University's MPA program and previously employed in Human Resources by the Federal Government and Higher Education, Waen is now retired from working 8 to 5 and is writing about Politics, Life and a little Religion.
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