Childish legends about George Washington never telling a lie and “honest Abe” were harmless. The Dutch boy keeping his finger in the dike all night was a children’s story written by an American so beloved by Holland they celebrated the myth with a statue. Now, myths about serious subjects are threatening our moral compass and creating a “moral vacuum.” [1]

Childish legends about George Washington never telling a lie and “honest Abe” were harmless. The Dutch boy keeping his finger in the dike all night was a children’s story written by an American so beloved by Holland they celebrated the myth with a statue. Now, myths about serious subjects are threatening our moral compass and creating a “moral vacuum.” [1]

News

Former Secretary of State and President of Enron, Rex Tillerson told graduates of VMI, “There is a growing crisis in ethics and integrity in American democracy. The central tenet of a free society, a free people is access to the truth. It is only by a fierce defense of the truth and a common set of facts that we create the conditions for a democratic, free society. If, our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as a people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.” [AP, May 16]

Aesop’s fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ concerns a shepherd boy who relieved his boredom by twice crying, “Wolf” when there was no wolf, unnecessarily alarming town folks. When a wolf did attack his sheep his third cry went unheeded because, “Liars are not believed even when they tell the truth.” [2]

Hear a rumor on a newscast and as a truth you relate

Not knowing its origin its credulity others take

Then they repeat it with none to redact

Many then preferring the fiction to the fact

Mess in Washington

Even educated, informed experts are demeaned as ‘elites’ for those very admirable attributes. Politicians who have been around long enough to both learn how to govern and accumulate enough seniority to rise to committee chair positions are denigrated as “the establishment” or “career politicians.” Fifty years ago, 62% of respondents to Gallup polls said they trusted the government all or most of the time: now, only 18 % do.[1]

Candidates for the highest offices now boast of being ‘outsiders’ i.e., inexperienced and uninformed about politics. Candidates vow to “fight” for voters if elected which is not an asset but a detriment in Congress where legislating requires cooperation and compromise. Washington, the revered seat of the federal government is to some candidates a “swamp.”

Genesis

Attached is the cover of a children’s story book my Mother read to me. [3] I still know the stories all of which are just that i.e., fiction. But, underlying most are moral truths worth knowing and living by. They contained moral truths written at a child’s level of understanding.

Had Genesis been communicated in scientific terms it would have been unintelligible to those who wrote the Scriptures. As man’s fund of knowledge has increased, we have come to see that Genesis actually conveys many truths.

Sometimes telling the truth is not just unwelcome, it is dangerous! When Jewish officials finally understood what Jesus meant by His “kingdom”, they arranged for the Romans to kill him. That is why Jesus sometimes asked those he healed to, “not tell.” [Mk.1:41-2] Ancient emperors sometimes “killed the messenger” bearing unpleasant truths. Now, we change channels to avoid news we don’t like.

“Washington Elites

The emigrants from England who founded our country were escaping a class system that perpetuated a few families esteemed because of heredity e.g., class system. Hence, Article I, Sec. 9 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “no title of nobility shall be granted by the U.S.”.

Twelve states each selected their best to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution. When Jefferson , then in France, learned names of delegates to the Convention, he wrote John Adams “It really is an assembly of demigods.” They were young, averaging only 43 even including 81-year old Benjamin Franklin. But, they were politically experienced with three fourths having served in the Continental Congress, 21 in the Revolutionary War, and 8 having signed the Declaration of Independence. Anyone who has read a Federalist Paper has to marvel at their political erudition. [4] Wisdom in politics was so important then that Constitution made only 6% of the population eligible to vote.

I’m afraid our standards for members of Congress have slipped since then. Now we elect candidates because they promise to “fight” for us . Experience no longer enhances one’s resume but places incumbents in the hated category of the ‘Washington establishment’

For several years I went to Capitol Hill every few weeks on University of Michigan Hospital business, and I came away with great admiration for the integrity and ability of members of Congress and high government bureaucrats. There was no “swamp” and they were not “fighting.” Getting there is hard and staying there gave one seniority enhancing one’s memberships on key committees and leverage in negotiations. Getting along and going along with friends in intellectual teamwork was useful. It was no place for prima donnas. Surviving and thriving there for a long time confers a badge of honor and running against Washington veterans and insiders says more about the defamer than their political target.

[1] USA Today, May 22, 2018

[2] Aesop for Children, NY Barnes & Noble, 2007.

[3] The Road in Storyland, Watty Piper, Platt & Monk Co., 1932.

[4] Bowen, Catherine D., Miracle at Philadelphia, NY: Little Brown & Co, 1966. 3-5.