By Vickie Wilcher
Much ado again about the “corruption” that seems to plague local Washington’s political arena. Scandal after scandal—will it ever stop? Answer: It can; if even the slightest number of the good people of the District of Columbia will turn their gaze and their commitment toward creating a different kind of culture—social and political. If just the tiniest number of people would rise up in the spirit of righteousness then this era of cheap swindles, despicable usury and shameful deception would pass into its place in history. And with the right amount of care and honesty we and our children’s children would learn from even the most bitter experiences of these times and we would be free to continue to move on, to build anew as the changing of times and seasons dictate.
Rather, in many instances it appears that we are somehow stuck, even when we convince ourselves that we’ve changed, we’ve ushered in a new regime, we find later (usually not long after an election cycle has ended) that although we have replaced a few people at the top—a mayor here, a Council member there, we are still trapped like mice in a maze that travel the same route over and over again; and repeatedly end up in the same place. The astute onlooker might note that our problem likely lies in part in the fact that despite the changing faces of Washington’s leadership over the last several decades the ideals and even the ultimate goals of many of the leaders and their followers have changed little, if at all. And as a result we have created an entrenched culture run by an entrenched power group.
Ironically, as one regime ousts another, it’s typically done on the promise that “they,” the new team, will be better/different than their political opponents. It’s probably fair to assume that in some cases in the beginning “they,” the new team, believe their own propositions and even sincerely want to serve in some meaningful way. But more times than not “they,” the new team, become the dragons they promised to slay. The deep-seated culture and the long-standing relationships with those of similar power suck them in and sadly often causes an “impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle” (one definition of the word corruption) in the leader and oddly, sometimes in the follower too. Another definition of corruption is: “a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct.”
Taken together, these definitions against the backdrop of the now customary state of the District are surely cause for us to look closely at this concept of corruption and what it really means. Let’s start at the point at which we must acknowledge that for something (integrity, virtue, moral principal) to be “impaired,” it must first exist. Likewise, for something to “depart from the original,” an original state must have existed and become something else. If we agree on these points and we can further accept the argument that people are born basically good, then it’s not such a leap to suggest that even those people/Washington leaders, influencers and power brokers who have engaged or allegedly engaged in what we are calling corruption can and, in fact wherever reasonable, should be tried fairly (not necessarily in the court system), disciplined according to their offense and ultimately absolved for their transgression. Adopting this simple practice will surely help to move us away from the constant stream of negative information that only serves to upset and keep us focused on all that is wrong—a necessary cornerstone of the culture of corruption.
If we could/would see the good in one another, we could not possibly waste so much time attempting to shame and debase each other. We might instead, when faced with any disagreement, insist on establishing the goals and objectives necessary to resolve the issue in the way that is most beneficial to as many people as possible. This will not always be the easiest or most popular course of action, but look at where the path of least resistance has led us as a whole. It’s true that many have benefited from the current way of doing things, but more have suffered. And now with all the corruption coming to light even more will suffer—the “mighty” will fall, but that alone will do nothing to raise us, as a whole, up.
Imagine a society in which there was an agreed upon code of ethics that was rooted in the premise that it is unacceptable to engage in behaviors that might cause others harm; and that it is equally unacceptable to tolerate any such behavior from others. This society would obviously look very different from our current environment. In such an atmosphere one can clearly picture the amount of energy that we would shift to creating, to expanding our gifts and to growing our families and communities. Author, Stephen Covey points out that when trust levels between people are high, and performance agreements are designed for win-win outcomes people tend to work harder toward being good and doing what is right. In that same vein, author Marianne Williamson wrote that in the case of the honest mistake, most of us are so remorseful that we are actually punished by the mistake; and so the need to be punished for a given era is often over-kill. We might add that focusing on dispensing retribution in many instances diminishes, if not completely halts, the growing experience for both punished and the punisher.
The point then is that for Washington to begin its healing processes and to move away from the culture of corruption that now punishes the whole of the city, we must first forgive—those who we believe have somehow suffered some degree of “impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle” and ourselves for whatever roles we have consciously or unconsciously played in allowing such a culture to exist and even thrive.
Loving, courageous, considerate, respectful, honest, peaceful, giving, caring, joyous, connected, just, kind, fair, faithful, loyal, gentle, committed, forgiving, open, thoughtful, compassionate, passionate, helpful, Loving—these are the words; no, more than that, these are characteristics that we should call forth when we think about who we should strive to be and what we will need for our families and communities to be centered on in order for us to deconstruct our current culture and rebuild. And rebuild we must.