I have often thought about what the greatest existential threat to our democracy could be. Would other nations threaten it, or would it come from within through ignorance or the moral corruption of a large proportion of our leaders and citizens? My feeling is that the greatest potential threat at this time to our democracy is from within our own country. How could it happen and what would make this threat real?
One of the principle tenets of the Judeo-Christian religions is this: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” I believe this tenet was given for good reason, as truth and trust in others are imperative not just for a healthy democracy, but for society to function properly and justly. What happens when people in a democracy don’t care about the truth? What happens when a government is based on lies, deceit and secrets? How easily can one get caught up in lies and deceit? Questions like these become imperative to the future viability of any democracy.
Most people lie because it enables them to manipulate those being lied to, and manipulation results in the enhanced power of the liar. What is disturbing is that whenever a public official has done a lot of deceiving, it casts doubts on many others. People start to become cynical. Not only that, they set a bad example which can become very contagious and oftentimes the norm.
In our current state of affairs, our politics is very partisan. Blind loyalty to a cause is more or less required. Because of this, I believe the person heavily involved in partisanship may eventually start on the path to corruption, where one’s own judgment and standards are then compromised.
What is even more alarming is that many people believe it is OK to lie as long as they believe it does not hurt them. Have people always been this way or is this belief a current trend? Also, there are many others who simply accept a public official no matter what his moral character, as long as he does their bidding. What this tells me is that character in this day and age is no longer a prerequisite to holding a public office as it used to be.
The kind of fanatical partisanship we have today causes people to condone lying and many other abuses as long as it furthers their agenda or notion of what is right. Sissela Bok, philosopher and ethicist, observed in her writings that partisanship and blind loyalty “is the ultimate corrupter of one’s own judgment and one’s own standards.” It is my opinion that when public officials occasionally or even consistently lie without remorse and are not held responsible, we the people are in trouble.24 comments on this story
In conclusion, I must admit that I am frustrated and concerned over the current state of affairs in our country. I have wondered what I could do to make a difference as I am only one person and don't have a great deal of influence. What I can do, however, is exercise the freedoms this great country has given to me. I have freedom of speech. I have the right to vote. I can be involved politically. I can become better informed. I can stand for what I believe is right. I can choose to be honest and have integrity and good moral character. I can encourage others, particularly those in public office, to do the same for the sake of the democratic ideals of our country.