Clearing the Ethics Palette of Despair, Finding Hope

The accumulation of depressing stories and news items is making me despair again.

Our leaders will not exercise courageous leadership, and Americans seem unable to accept any sacrifices at a time when sacrifice is essential. I watch the pathetic Greeks riot because their country has gone broke allowing them to be irresolute and irresponsible, and I find myself feeling ashamed of my Greek heritage and wondering if the citizens of the land of my birth will behave any better.

When I search for Ethics Heroes to balance the many, many candidates for Ethics Dunces, I find myself increasingly drawn  to the obituaries of World War II heroes who are dying by the hundreds every day. Yet those are dead heroes, and we desperately need living ones.

Meanwhile, the continuing economic crisis plants seeds of ethical contempt, fertilized by national leadership that shows itself willing to cut corners and warp the truth in the name of expediency. The bombing of Libya is not a hostile action. Sure. The strategic oil reserves are being released because of a national emergency, not as politically-motivated manipulation of gas prices. Tell me another.

Legislators too cowardly to pass needed tax increases are instead willing to expose the nation’s values to rot, pushing initiatives to legalize recreational drugs and on-line gambling to acquire ill-begotten government revenue from those least able to afford it,  just as state governments took over the numbers racket. What is next? I’m afraid to guess. Ethical standards are more important than ever in a crisis, but they are also at their most vulnerable. When the going gets tough, I say, the tough get unethical. And that is what we are seeing now in our society.

Patrice Roe, a dear friend, a wise woman and an occasional reader here sent me this story, about a father who gave his life to rescue his Down Syndrome son under remarkable circumstances. Today it was just what I needed to read, to clear my ethics palette of some terrible tasting tales that generated too many toxic thoughts. It reminded me that out beyond the greasy ethics smog of Washington, D.C. there are people who do the right thing when it matters, more than we know.

I feel much better having read it, and perhaps you will too. You can find it here.

2 thoughts on “Clearing the Ethics Palette of Despair, Finding Hope

  1. Jack, thank you for the kind words.

    The statement in the article that just stopped me dead in my thoughts was this one: “How did he become the sort of man who could devise a plan to save his drowning son, and then carry out that plan, knowing all the while that it might mean his own death?” It’s a question all parents ought to ask themselves as they struggle to raise ethical children.

    But I have something to add to your essay —
    Some of us will never get the opportunity to step willingly into the fatal sewage of life to save the life of our child, or of anybody’s child, or family member, or just another person sinking. Or to face courageously the deadly explosion of an IED as they search for their abducted comrades in arms. Most of us just try to make the right choices minute after minute of each day of our surprisingly short lives, even after regretfully making bad choices. And maybe one of us will write an Ethics Blog, tilting at the windmills of cowardice, greed, self-indulgence, and all of the other things that suck the ethics right out of us. Thank you, Jack Quixote.

    • Thanks for the link, Jack. Unfortunately, as inspiring as the story was, I was foolish enough to read the comments, which brought me back down a little.

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