By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Most people are familiar with the phrase, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” but the context from which the thought is drawn is seldom mentioned. In a series of letters, Lord Acton argues that kings and clergy should be judged by the same standards as everyone else. In the same paragraph as his most famous quote, Lord Acton also writes, “There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
Our nation’s founding fathers understood that our union was always just one election away from being ripped apart by human passions, which are so easily ignited by a quest for power.
Today, I see fear and hate, hear jealousy and greed, and smell the foul stench of selfish corruption that threatens to invade the very soul of our Republic. It seems we are only 140 characters away from a “we” verses “them” uprising that is ruinous to a democratic republic such as ours.
But what do I know?
Maybe too much time reading about the birth of our nation, the rise of the American experiment, and the daring wisdom of our founding fathers is why I turned out so badly. Then again, could it be all those superhero comics that gave me hope one man or woman could perform amazing feats like Superman’s never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way?
What a wasted youth.
The fault could be my parents, who encouraged me to watch William F. Buckley Jr. and Dick Cavett. Didn’t they understand that listening to opposing viewpoints could cause a deep-seated personality disorder that would lead to weighing arguments in light of evidence? How was I to grow sturdy and strong without a daily dose of confirmation bias?
All those books. All that listening to smart people with differing opinions … terrible, just terrible.
It made me think that I was thinking, and as Sylvester the Cat said, “The shame, the horror.”
Suffering succotash, what a waste it all was, squandering my youth believing honesty, integrity, hard work, and service to others built character.
Character, right? Who needs that anymore?
Even worse were all those misspent decades prayerfully studying scripture to gain understanding and wisdom to discern good from evil.
Add to all that the fact that my life’s work is dedicated to a “fake” industry that hates America, and my existence is about as worthless as a hammered cow patty.
Of course, I’m not so foolish as to believe that listening, learning, or giving your life in service to something greater than yourself is a waste, but it’s tempting when I look around at the current political landscape.
The Republican Party is so far adrift that neither Buckley nor Ronald Reagan would recognize it. Likewise, the Democratic Party would be entirely foreign to a JFK or FDR.
It is my policy to keep my opinions on national matters private on these pages because our mission is to cover State politics.
However, after seeing President Donald Trump’s treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other good men and women, after witnessing his equivocation on racist hate and hearing him time and again degrade the office of the presidency, my conscience will no longer allow me to remain silent. I hope this will be my last time to write on the subject — for which many of you will be grateful.
Our country is in desperate need of moral clarity because our government is being debased by arrogance, lies, and a willing denial and even acceptance of intolerance and violence.
Our founding president, George Washington, set the tone for those who would follow him by displaying wisdom, temperance, and impeccable character.
In a letter to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, he assured the assembly that, “the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”
However, today we are told that those who chant, “Jews will replace us,” have some fine people in their ranks. As the son-in-law of a man who endured the horrors of a Nazi starvation camp, it’s hard to imagine any man who wears a swastika or hoists the Nazi flag as a fine person.
Recently, someone said to me, “This is payback for the years Obama pissed on us.”
Payback, really? That’s what this is all about?
Another individual, with whom I no longer associate, said after Obama’s election, “They elected that [N-word] again, I hope to one day walk over the dead bodies of those who put him in office.”
Was Obama ever as bad as his critics claim, or was he as good as his champions believed? It’s doubtful.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, certain religious leaders proclaimed our nation was experiencing heavenly wrath and that God sent hurricanes to punish us for Obama’s heresy. Is Hurricane Harvey, which is now covering Texas in a deluge, a delayed reaction?
It would seem only a false prophet or a fool would attribute a devastating hurricane as God’s punishment for one president and not another.
When hatred is based on lies, does it matter why they hate?
I’ve been horrified and sorely disappointed in certain men of the cloth in our state who remain quiet and even defend these outrages.
The other day, I spoke with a minister I have respected over the years and to whom I’ve taken my worries. We talked about scripture as we often do, but when I asked him how to square our president’s character, words, and actions to biblical principles, he recited the same line as others, “He is appointing conservative judges.”
How many judges will be needed to restore decency, the rule of law, and the reputation of our nation?
Like many of our citizens, I pray daily for our State and country’s leaders, in that we might live a quiet and peaceful life as instructed by scripture, but just as Jesus ran the money changers from the temple, I’m ill-disposed to remain complacent in the face of growing dishonesty and discord.
I wish President Trump success as leader of our nation. However, as a man, Mr. Trump’s sense of American values and mine diverge greatly, even when it comes to basic human decency.
So, here we are. The press is an enemy of the State, lies told under the mantle of the presidency are simply jokes we don’t get, and if a buddy is charged with disobeying a federal order then lies about it, he should be pardoned.
OK, what next?
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”
Jefferson was a smart man; too bad I wasted all that time believing him.
I’ve never thought America wasn’t great. So, the red cap emblazoned with “Make America Great Again” was, to me, a marketing slogan at best, or at its worst, a cynical mockery of our great nation.
For me, like President Reagan, America remains a shining city on a hill that stands as the last great refuge for those longing for freedom. Our Republic is built on the promise of the Declaration of Independence and solidified by our Constitution.
But what do I know?
All is vanity and a vexation of the spirit, but it is not a waste.