July is only ¾ over and it's already been a singularly bad month for news on the ethics front.
At the top of the list we have "The house on C Street," where a group of US Senators and Congressmen live together, professing deep Christian faith and morality, and at the same time either engaging in their own and covering up others' extramarital affairs. The former group included the sanctimonious John Ensign of Nevada and the now-laughingstock Mark Sanford of South Carolina. To compound the hypocrisy, both have announced they have no intention of resigning, even though both called on President Clinton to resign when he got caught in his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
When are we as a nation and as voters going to get it? These holier-than-thou types have a very high probability of being hypocrites. I'm not saying all religious people are phonies – far from it – but public officials who trumpet their "faith" seem to keep coming up lousy. There is a reason that the founders went to great lengths to separate church and state, and this is a prime example of it. I'm not condemning them for having "strayed" – the best of us have fallen prey to that – it's being so damned sanctimonious about others. Wasn't it He whom they claim to worship who said "why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother's eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye?"
Then we have a double-header – the eminent scholar Henry Louis Gates is arrested after the police were called by someone who saw him "breaking into" his own home in Cambridge, and a member of the traveling troupe of Porgy and Bess, staying at a private home in San Francisco, has the police called when she goes into the house and again when she lingers in her car to complete a phone call. Both their "crimes" seem to be GATBWB (going about their business while black).
After the last election, much was made of our having entered a "post-racial" era – an era when race will not be a factor in our lives and racism is over. There's no question that the election of Barack Obama signaled a sea change in American culture, but folks, it ain't over. When a black man in his own home who objects to the police being present is arrested for "tumultuous behavior" and when a black woman can't enter a house where she is a guest without being under suspicion, just how "post-racial" are we?
And finally, we have 44 politicians, civilians, and clergy arrested in New Jersey after a ten-year corruption investigation involving money laundering, influence peddling, etc. Again, we have public figures including Rabbis (lest you think this is peculiar to fundamentalist Christians) espousing high morality while operating immorally.
What the hell is going on? I'd like to think (and this may be whistling in the dark) that, with Bush, Cheney, et al. out of power, we're starting to restore honest to public life, and that these things are coming to light as the rocks of integrity get turned over. Let's hope so.