A topic that we keep talking about but rarely see in today’s society is ethics. For example, Leftists (and some NeverTrumpers for that matter) have their panties in a bunch over allegations Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it (mainly because you have more of a life than your humble commentator), the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities. Originally, it was meant to curtail the likelihood of bribery and corruption, but as we’ve seen in the past few decades, the Hatch Act is like training wheels on a Slip N Slide.
Of course, the Trump Administration is pushing back by defending Conway’s right to free speech, which made Leftists lose their shit and start talking about ethics.
Yes, folks, my irony meter broke just typing that sentence.
While I wait for a repairman to fix my irony meter, let’s talk about ethics, shall we?
What the Left thinks it means – a set of guiding principles that everyone else should follow
What it really means – a set of guiding principles that people today make up as they go along
Cynicism, thy name is Thomas. In my defense, though, I have seen a lot of ethical lapses in my nearly 50 years of schlepping around on this water-covered rock, from Watergate to Washington State and more stops in between than I can shake a stick at. That is, if I even have a stick to shake. Politicians, athletes, celebrities, and even Joe Average have all been getting looser with their ethical standards.
Remember the 1990s, where sex scandals would pop up like the men in said sex scandals? Granted, it was the 90s, the decade that gave us Crystal Pepsi, but at least we had some standards. Nowadays, sex scandals are more resume enhancers than career enders.
And it’s not just in the sexual arena, either. In general, we are allowing more and more stuff we used to decry not even 10 years ago. Recent surveys just within the past 2-3 years have shown college students are okay with plagiarism, cheating, and lying. Even adults are starting to throw their hands up in the air and give in to unethical behavior. (See Congress for proof of this.)
Neither major political party has clean hands when it comes to ethics, unfortunately. For every Democrat calling out Republican corruption, there is a Democrat doing the same thing, and vice versa. The problem is few people are willing to call out members of their own “team” when they are in the wrong. A big part of the problem is the entire “team” concept. In every political case where ethics are looser than Bernie Sanders’ grasp of Econ 101, you will find people lining up behind someone as scummy as they come in order to defend these scumbags against “partisan attacks.” There is a bevy of great reasons the Founding Fathers didn’t like political parties, and this is as good of a reason as any.
Outside of the political arena, I think people have decided to give up trying to do the right thing because it requires them to think of other people as fellow human beings instead of inconveniences interrupting your self-worship. We’ve gotten so used to taking shortcuts that we’re not even trying to find the road anymore. Besides, doing the right thing means you actually have to do something other than sending #somebodydosomething to your Twitter peeps. On top of that, we’re always looking for self-gratification, which defeats the purpose of ethical behavior by taking the emphasis off the ethics and puts it onto ourselves.
Yes, I realize not everyone shares the same ethical background, so calling out a lack of ethics in any situation is bound to make people mad, upset, or just downright offended. Maybe your ethical framework makes it okay to cut corners or take a few pennies here and there from the till at work. Maybe you’re trans-ethical and self-identify as an ethical person. Regardless of where you stand on the topic, there is always going to be points of conflict. What might be right for you may not be right for some, so we may try to soften our stances to allow others to feel good about their behavior.
That’s why we’re in this ethical quagmire in the first place. By trying to be understanding of other people’s differences in ethics, we soften up our own ethics to the point even the most reasonable expectation of your fellow men and women becomes milquetoast so we don’t get in trouble. In social situations, that may not be a bad move, but it’s a terrible way to live a life. Everybody has standards, but we shouldn’t surrender ours because a transgendered woman with rainbow hair and more piercings than Julius Caesar outside the Forum wants you to accept his/her demand to breast feed. If you’re not okay with that, you shouldn’t force yourself to be okay with it. Holding your tongue in a situation where your ethics are challenged is surrendering without a shot being fired.
Look. I get we’re supposed to be tolerant of other viewpoints, but that tolerance needs to be two-way. I’ve made it a point in recent years to live by a simple code: do what’s right for everyone involved including yourself. And, yes, that means calling out ethical problems regardless of who might be hurt by it. One cannot be ethical without being honest, and brutally so at times.
So, let me be one voice in a chorus of people who think Kellyanne Conway should submit to whatever legal punishment awaits her should she be charged with violating the Hatch Act. Ethical standards shouldn’t be upheld in some cases and ignored in others just because of who violated them. We should hold all of our elected officials to the same ethical standard: don’t break, bend, or skirt the law, period. If a politician can’t hack that, he or she isn’t fit for the job and should be given a pink slip at your earliest convenience.
As for the Democrats and NeverTrumpers complaining about Conway, clean up your own houses first. Ditto for the Trump supporters backing Conway. A bad person with questionable ethics isn’t going to change as long as there’s no incentive to change. That means we’re going to have to stick firm to what we believe to be right, dig in our heels a bit, and be ready to defend said beliefs. It won’t be easy or always rewarding, but ethics are worth it every time.