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Why Did We Think We Were Immune?

By Delaware Dem

(Originally posted on Daily Kos)

The home of brave is what America used to be called. Many think the reference to 'brave' is a reference to our physical courage, our brawn, our mighty superiority.

No. It is a reference to our moral courage. Our moral toughness. Our moral bravery.

Being moral is not a reference to religious belief. It is a reference to right and wrong, a concept that exists among those who have faith and those who do not.

My favorite writer, Mark Twain, remarked "it is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare."

As I peruse the headlines of today's world, moral courage is not only rare, it is practically absent.

The whole Mark Foley-Dennis Hastert-Congressional Page scandal is replete with examples of the lack of moral courage.

The entire Republican leadership, from Speaker Hastert to Congressman Reynolds, knew what was right, and what was wrong, and they chose the wrong each and every time in covering up Mr. Foley's actions. The revelation this morning that Mr. Foley himself was an alleged victim of abuse only adds to his moral cowardice, rather than excuse it. Mr. Foley chose wrong with every email and IM he sent, and now he is giving us new examples of moral cowardice with each passing hour and excuse.

Amish Schoolhouse killer Charles Roberts chose wrong. How is it anything but cowardice to inflict punishment for your own mental disturbances on the innocent? How does one with any morals whatsoever actually kill the innocent? A child? A six year old child?

Majorities of both the Republican controlled House and Senate voted for torture last week. All of those voting for that bill, including the 29 Democratic Congressmen and 11 Democratic Senators, have no moral courage. Indeed, they voted for moral cowardice. Harry Reid and our Democratic leadership in the Senate lacked the moral courage in this instance in failing to stop this travesty. Their sin is less than those voting for it, but it is a sin nonetheless.

I highlight these three recent examples, but thousands of instances of moral cowardice take place every day. You and I are guilty of many of those instances. We all regret moments when we chose the wrong path, or stayed silent when we should have spoken, or did not act when we should have acted.

The prevalence of moral cowardice is so stunning in our society, it is no wonder our leaders lack it. It is no wonder it leads the news every day.

It is no wonder our republic is failing and falling.

Democracy requires honorable men and women with moral courage. It requires honesty and transparency. It requires doing the right thing.

When our society is populated with persons possessing the opposite of honor and morals, why did we expect that we would elect leaders with honor and morals?

Indeed, given the utter lack of moral courage in not only our daily lives, but in our society as a whole, conditions are ripe for our moral cowardice to be taken advantage of.

It happened to the Germans. Twice.

It happens in all the dictatorships and failed states throughout history.

It happens when people capable of moral courage abdicate it. They decide that the leaders they elect know best, and hand off absolute trust that is not earned. And when disreputable leaders are given that trust, they always, without fail, abuse it.

And equally without fail, such tyranny is always overthrown, for the examples of abuse and moral cowardice become so prominent, that those capable of courage just cannot abide it anymore. History gives us the cycle.

Americans always assumed they would be immune. We have such pride, that we always assumed that our government was by far the best invention ever created. We always assumed we would be on the side of good, and that when the world thought of what is good, they would think of America. We thought America would always be the shining city on the hill, not the dirty ghetto in the valley it is in danger of becoming.

Our expectation was inappropriate. Even our founders feared the moral courage of their progeny would run out.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, all feared this day would come.

For they realized the government they created, maintained and saved was not an institution that would survive on its own. They knew that governments were instituted among men, and derive their authority and power only from the consent of governed, and indeed would populated from among the governed. If the governed fail, the government fails.

Belief in democracy is not the answer.

Belief in the rule of law is not the answer.

Belief in the Constitution is not the answer.

Belief in our ideals as Democrats and liberals and progressives are not the answer.

All we need possess is moral courage. We need to know what is right and what is wrong, and we need to have the courage to stand up for that. And from that courage, we have the strength to fight the powerful cowardice controlling our government and ruling our society.

10/04/06