Trickle down corruption

This election cycle has forced me into committing what has, in recent years, become a cardinal sin of American democracy. So, I will openly admit it. This year, I am most definitely a single issue voter. Of course, it wouldn’t be considered a crime against democracy if the one issue that determined my vote had something to do with abortion “rights” or greenhouse gases. It doesn’t. But I believe that my issue is the issue, the ever-present but silent elephant in the living room of American democracy: corruption.

Public office isn’t public service any more. It has become just another venue for self-aggrandizement, and a business plan for striking it rich. Here’s my question: Why is it that every United States senator is a millionaire? I think the recent economic crisis gave us a glimpse behind the congressional cloakroom curtain. Those in government, business and finance are in collusion to make each other rich. The rest of us, it seems, are just here to foot the bill when it all comes tumbling down.

Unfortunately, this all sounds very cynical. But if you keep up with the news at all, it’s hard not to be. A sexually degenerate Florida congressman resigns, only to be replaced by one who -- though promising a return to morality -- turns out to be even more degenerate. An organization whose goal is to increase voter registration among the poor and historically disenfranchised is being investigated for fraud in perhaps a dozen states. One of the largest insurance companies in the world is bailed out when it goes belly up, but its executives still manage to take a planned spa vacation together where more than $100,000 is spent on hotel rooms alone. The hallmarks of the American experiment are teetering on the brink. One man-one vote, a free market economy, and the basic decency of the ordinary citizen all are threatened. 

We are witnessing the decline of society as a whole, and it is rotting from the top down. Whether you believe in “trickle down economics” or not, it seems that whatever is done by our country’s elite does, in fact, trickle down to the rest of us. At this time in history, that seems to be corruption. And corruption, if you look at history, doesn’t trickle -- it floods. Remember when only celebrities and rich people filed for divorce?

Those who lead our nation in government, business and education are modeling the primacy of money, power and celebrity in their own professional and personal lives. Maybe that is why we find ourselves now living in a country where the majority of people don’t actually do their jobs, where truthfulness has become optional, and where the notion of working for a common good greater than one’s self is considered stupid.

We are beginning to live with what happens to a culture when healthy self-interest deteriorates into narcissistic self-absorption. Motivation to excel has been replaced with an avarice for material wealth. Funny, that as more and more schools require our kids to tally up community volunteer hours, they seem to have less and less of a grasp of just what service is, and why it should be a constant component of how they live their lives. Ego is king, and hedonism is its consort. Neither will be easily dethroned.

One thing is clear. When a nation tosses the Commander aside, it doesn’t take long for his commandments to follow him out the door. The only real path to reclaiming our nation is the one of evangelization. We have a lot of cleaning to do, not just in the house (White, State or otherwise), but in the Senate, town halls, and in our civic organizations. That begins with us, the Church of Jesus Christ.

We are all in need of reform. As Christians we must be honest, hard-working and serve more than just ourselves. We should resist consumerism and materialism, and stop making accommodation for things we know are wrong. We ought to stop using those who are successful by worldly standards as an excuse to emulate their debauchery. And too, we need to keep articulating the ideals of a just society and true humanity, even when we are ourselves fall short of those ideals. For we know the truth: The renewal we long for can only be built on the repentance we need.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the Spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.