If you have been awake during the past three years, you have been witnessing the twilight of the land once known as “America.” She was once a powerful advocate for change, progress and advancement of the entire human race. She was the modern, logical inheritor of the Enlightenment and she became the destination for those who sought to live free and thrive. She was stability in an otherwise mad world of violence, poverty and darkness.
However, since 2017, you have seen elected government officials kowtowing to one person, even while knowing that person is deranged and destined to ruin everything in a few short years that took over two hundred and thirty years to create. It is not a pretty sight to see – – the collapse of a nation. In fact, it is sad because it could have all been avoided with more care and action by concerned people everyone. What is heartening to see is the resistance to our leader, and particularly, by whom this challenge is being led. Average citizens sitting in a bar criticizing a sitting president is one thing; seeing a Harvard law professor who teaches Constitutional law doing it is quite another.
Academia has a job to perform. They are responsible for training and teaching the leaders of the future just how much our much-maligned ethics matters. The honor code of a university or college is one guide, and without it, impressionable minds can easily be led astray. This code was written originally by a student at the College of William and Mary named Thomas Jefferson. Even he knew that someone without a working moral compass usually ended up on the wrong side of society or in jail.
For practically the entire history of our republic, we have been warned to stay away from charlatans and those who would reduce our dream of democracy to one of enslavement and ruin. Our universities and colleges try to teach us the relevance of this educational challenge. Those who choose to ignore their teachings are the same people who spend their time every day lying to the American people on a wide array of topics in public forums. When those who lead the government tell us that we should accept their views and opinions as if they were the gospel, we should be wary and we should ask questions that will lead to admissions of falsehood. Recall how few questioned the Bush administration in 2003 about Iraq’s alleged military intentions and as a result, millions of people were turned into refugees and hundreds of thousands were killed or maimed.
Historians like myself are always pointing to past events to use as guides in how to change our trajectories. We know the warnings of Thucydides and Herodotus to be accurate in our accounting of events, no matter how small or insignificant at the time. Little events often have big consequences we were cautioned. And we were taught to look for those who are true game-changers and to highlight their goals and achievements.
Personally, it is gratifying to see so many of my former colleagues on television night after night discussing the dangers we are facing with our rabid, unchecked government. They were great prosecutors and quite mindful of the ethics of their work and dedicated to preserving our union through their actions in a courtroom. These are the people who should be listened to, not the yammering unqualified dolts that permeate the airwaves with lies and falsehoods designed to elicit a specific response from the hordes that follow their programs as if they were telling them the truth on any number of issues.
I am proud that I was raised in the liberal arts with the encouragement of professors and teachers who taught me to think for myself, as long as I was honest, ethical and not deceiving anyone with false equivocations or shoddy research. I was also proud to be at the forefront of the environmental movement in 1970 when I participated in the first Earth Day while still in high school, and prouder still to have put my ethics to good use in my chosen profession. What I cannot fathom is someone who allegedly had the same kind of education who lies on camera for a living, misleading others into thinking they are on the right side of history when in fact, they are on the wrong side of history and America.
We should look at this current administration with our eyes open to the fact that we are living in the time of the most corrupt government ever assembled in our history. It begs the question of Plato’s warning that people get the government they deserve. Did America deserve Donald Trump? Only if we did not fight his ascendancy with all our might. And there are no “do-overs” for this fight. We either get it right this year, or we lose everything it took our forefathers hundreds of years to produce and perfect.