Shock! Amazement! Wonderment!
Those were the words that seemed to resound through the “ether” when it was announced that the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, had been indicted and arrested on corruption charges.
“How stupid can this guy have been?” was the question that my wife asked, in light of what Patrick Fitzgerald said at the news conference announcing the indictment.
Now, I will admit that I wasn’t all that surprised that this happened because Blagojevich had been under investigation for sometime and I was used to seeing the reports in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That he would try something so bold while knowing he was under investigation underscores the stupidity of his actions.
But, I figure that it has to be in the water. After all, something like four of the last seven governors have been indicted on a number of charges and the governor that Blagojevich replaced, George Ryan, is currently serving 6-½ sentence for corruption related offenses.
And while others will look at the connections between the Governor of Illinois and the President-elect, I want to look at ways that we can fix this problem. Political corruption is nothing new and this merely reinforces the notion of many people that politics is something evil. So let’s get rid of politics. But how shall we govern this nation?
There is a need for government, if for no other reason that without a government, anarchy in some form would result. We saw it in the time between the completion of the Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution when this country was simply a loose confederation of states. But each state was effectively its own country and the dealings with the other states/countries proved to be exceedingly difficult. Those who met in the Constitutional Convention saw the problems inherent to a confederation type of government and proposed a new form of constitutional government. But the one thing that was not in the planning for the new government was the nature of the human animal and our capacity to take power in any form to the excess.
So, perhaps we need a new form of government. There have been many arguments for some sort of Internet presence in the government. The last few political campaigns have shown the viability and necessity of establishing a presence on the Internet so why not somehow develop governing by electronic means.
But, if for no other reason that many people do not have immediate and constant access to the Internet, I don’t think it will work. There are many people in this country and throughout the world who do not even have a computer. And while we may proclaim the Internet as “the new democracy”, if there is one person who does not have a computer, then this “new democracy” is flawed. And it isn’t just having a computer; it is easy and sustainable access that is needed. We aren’t there yet and until we have this new infrastructure in place, using the Internet as a means of government will not work.
And even if we did have easy and sustainable access with everyone having computers, that is no guarantee that they will know what to do with that capability. I have heard so many times that the present generation of school kids are the most technologically savvy generation we have ever seen. If we limit that technology to downloading songs to their MP3 players or text messaging their friends, perhaps that is the case. But using the computer to prepare documents and gather information is another issue and until this generation, the next generation, or any generation can utilize the technology to consistently create new information, it will be a long time before the technology in use matches the technology of Star Trek.
It has been suggested that churches offer communion over the Internet but I don’t see how that can ever happen. Back in 2005, Christmas was on a Sunday and a number of churches announced that they would not be open that day (see “Open For Business?”). Instead, these churches would offer computer-based alternatives. But church and worship is a human endeavor. Politics is a human endeavor and you cannot do either without human contact. Those who see in the Internet the ultimate in contact are missing the point; without human contact, be it in the political arena, the sanctuary, or elsewhere, the essence of humanity disappears. We can quite easily make a war seem sterile and far away when we hid the bodies that come home (ask the mothers of the Russian soldiers killed in Afghanistan or ask the families of our own military personnel when the caskets arrive late at night and are hidden away from all to see). It is the human contact that makes communion what it is; it is the combination of the spirits that makes worship what it is (or what it should be; I have been to some pretty boring worship services). It is the human interaction that makes politics what it should be and what it can be.
So what do we do? It lies within each of us to do the things that will remove the corruption from the politics; but it is more than just corruption. It is the entire scheme. The attitude that many people show towards politics is because of the way politics shows itself to the people. It is not the interaction of ideas but the undercutting and degradation of people that has turned off so many people to the political process.
It isn’t just politics; it is the way we conduct our life. How is it that the Bank of America can receive money which is supposed to help people and then turn around and force a company to close without at least giving the company enough money to pay the workers severance pay?
One of the things that I was looking at in my weekly Sunday piece last week (“Preparing the Way”) was the lack of effort on our parts as individuals and churches to push for a proper understanding of ethics and values in this country.
Now some may say that the schools should teach ethics and values but that would be just another thing that parents and society require of schools. And, no matter how it is done, someone will object that what is being taught is contrary to their particular belief system. No matter what your belief system may be (Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, or some other system including non-belief), there is an ethical part involved. And if you do not understand the ethical structure of your belief systems, then you are going to have a difficult time teaching your children and you are going to have a difficult time calling for reform of the political system. And you will continue to be upset when the political processes of the times focus more on mud-slinging and negative campaigning than on development of solutions for the problems.
I once asked the question if the churches of this society were the moral police of society or the moral conscience (“Some Questions to think about”). I have come to the conclusion that too many people see the church and associated belief systems as the moral police instead of the conscience. This is because we have no concept of what our faith is and what is meant to be. We used to understand this; we saw it in the Civil Rights protests of the 60’s and the protests against the Viet Nam war. But our outrage, the cry of our conscience, has disappeared so much so that there shock and amazement when another politician is arrested on corruption charges.
Perhaps it is the water. John Wooden, Basketball Coach Emeritus at UCLA, was given a list from his father that was the basis for his life. Among the points on that list was the statement was “drink deeply from the good books”. Drink from the water of spirit and knowledge and goodness shall grow.
Let us use what is before us to bring about a change that is good and a change that is lasting.