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Respect for authority starts with respectability

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, April 13, 2013

I read this week that “disgraced” New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is pondering a run for mayor of New York City.

I was dumbfounded.

I didn’t know it was possible to be “disgraced” in America anymore.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

In case you weren’t paying attention (and who would blame you?) this particular member of the U.S. House of Representatives resigned after admitting he had texted a photograph of his male anatomy to someone.

That news item was solid gold for the late-night comedy shows for weeks before he stepped down and, finally, fell out of the headlines.

But Congressman Weiner’s shame wasn’t any worse than what’s come out (sorry) on dozens of other leaders.

Former President Bill Clinton, now a respected elder statesman, toughed it out after the world learned he’d not only fooled around with an intern, but lied about it under oath.

Ultimately, the prosecutor took more heat than the president.

That’s less and less surprising in a country where stars and starlets now win not shame, but fame, by letting a sex video find its way to the Internet.

I remember a Miss America who stepped down after embarrassing photos from her earlier days were published. These days, she’d get her own reality show and a spread in People. A couple of minor arrests, a few assaults on the papparrazi and a spectacularly failed marriage or two, and lasting fame is guaranteed.

But I’m not talking about entertainers – I’m talking about our leaders.

For sure, there are still ways to get banished from public life, but most of them involve being politically incorrect (and even the worst offense will still make you a hero in some subculture, somewhere in America).

Some of us look for ways to connect all these dots.

Prosecutors and public officials getting gunned down from Colorado to Kaufman. A strip-club owner going to prison for putting out a “hit” on the mayor of Arlington. Metal detectors and searches in public buildings – a level of security unimaginable a few decades ago.

Public service used to command respect. Now that respect has to be enforced.

The perception these days is that government is corrupt, unable to get anything done because politicians are too busy feathering their own nests.

That’s mostly false.

Wise County is blessed to have many honorable and dedicated public officials who have a real desire to serve, to make things better. They work hard at it.

But you tend to hear more about the minority – the ones who violate the public’s trust, flaunt the law, defend the indefensible and expect people to vote for and support them anyway.

It only takes a few of those to give the whole profession a bad name. And we’ve had a few, over the years.

We tend to crack jokes and make light of it (I mean, seriously, Congressman Weiner?) but the long-term result is deadly serious.

The fact is, you reap what you sow. That’s a law of nature, inevitable and unchangeable. No matter how much we spin, edit, doctor and manage, a few people’s actions come back on us all.

You don’t have to look far to see how that plays out.

In Mexico, for decades, many public officials were on the take. Bribery was a way of life. Incompetence and corruption reigned while everyone winked and looked the other way.

But at some point that beautiful country fell into such corruption that drug cartels routinely gun down sheriffs, police chiefs, mayors and governors who dare oppose them. How do you get to that point?

I’m pretty sure it was gradual. And the USA may be on the same track.

Raise up enough dishonorable public servants, and respect for public service itself starts to erode. People lose interest in voting or running for office. Public service becomes the butt of jokes. I’ve made a few myself.

But it isn’t funny.

I don’t know how many bad meals a restaurant has to serve before it goes out of business, but there is a number. It’s quantifiable, and it’s inevitable.

Bad government has a number too.

This country desperately needs parents who teach their children to respect the leaders of our cities, our school districts, our states and our nation.

Just as desperately, we need leaders who are worthy of that respect.

Because we will all reap what they sow.

Bob Buckel is executive editor of the Wise County Messenger.

One Response to “Respect for authority starts with respectability”

  1. It’s funny but not unexpected that you mention only Democrats Mark Sanford who has been in the news longer then ex Congressman Weiner comes to mind right away.
    Then there is what Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said ” All Politics is local”,
    and we all know how shamefully the current situation has been handled with Terry Ross. Neither justice or the facts have come out in this case and it been going on for over for many many months now. There is plenty of guilt on both sides of the isle and to to deny that would again being unfaithful to the facts. Many times the one’s we send to do our public bidding are corrupted by the throngs of lobbyist standing right next to the door of our governmental institutions. Do we not remember the checks both Boehner and Mitch McConnell were handing out on the floor of the Senate and House prior to votes concerning Cigarettes and the Tobacco Lobby. I have meet a lot of politicians in my time, both Republican and Democratic. Have I meet any trustworthy enough to support? The answer is yes, on both sides of the isle. And what is it that separated these men and women from the rest? They put the interest of all the people not just those how elected them, or contributed to their campaign. As one Republican would tell those who disagreed how he voted on a particular issue would say. “you don’t like the vote, you know what to do in the next election, in the mean time go screw yourself!

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