Merriam-Webster’s defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of moral values (incorruptibility).” Words related to integrity are: character, decency, goodness, honesty, morality, righteousness, uprightness, and virtue. Opposites include evildoing, immorality, sin, villainy, and wickedness. Whether you are Liberal or Conservative, I would like to ask you if you feel our government representatives have integrity. Before you answer this question, let’s reiterate the meaning of the word: character, decency, goodness, honesty, morality… stop! I don’t know about you, but I don’t see many of our representatives exercising these qualities.
I guess I’m trying to break this integrity thing down. Maybe a few more questions can get us there. What is honesty? Is honesty stealing?… of course not… or is it? Is stealing taking something from someone that you say you will pay them for, but then don’t pay them?… of course not… or is it? I think you get the gist. So, again, I ask, do you feel our government representatives have integrity?
The recent debate about raising the debt ceiling showed that most Senators and Congressmen were willing to postpone any hard decisions till after the next election, without considering the harm they were doing in the long run. Earmarks are another sign of a lack of integrity. The current system seems to be, “I’ll vote for your bridge-to-nowhere if you’ll vote for mine.” The result is a mountain of debt that our children and grandchildren will have to deal with. How about robbing the Social Security trust fund to pay for current expenditures? That sends the morality meter way beyond “lack of integrity” and straight to the “sin and villainy” end of the spectrum.
Speaking of sin, it seems like every week we see another example of politicians caught with their pants down (sometimes literally), and they seem to have no shame about their behavior, whether it’s cheating on their spouse, accepting bribes or chasing after young interns.
“Campaign reform” has become an oxymoron, with special interest groups and political action committees using campaign donations to exercise more influence over lawmaking than ordinary citizens.
U.S. history is filled with examples of leaders with integrity, who did the right thing even though it was difficult: Harry Truman making the call to drop the A-bomb, Kennedy standing up to the Russians in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Reagan telling Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Where are these leaders today? Our current president is willing to turn his back on one of our most faithful allies, Israel, in order to appease Muslim countries. He was photographed hugging Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, and opened the White House to William Ayers, whose Weather Underground organization bombed federal buildings.
The root cause of the current lack of integrity may be that our nation has lost the moral compass provided by Judean-Christian principles. If there are no Ten Commandments, it seems that all morality is relative and it’s easy to justify whatever you want to do. But even those who don’t believe in God should at least follow rules of common decency, which apparently isn’t all that common anymore.
What’s the solution to this problem? As voters, let’s pay attention to the integrity of a person running for office, not just his/her political credentials or endorsements. And let your elected representatives know that people do care about their integrity, by praising them for sticking to their guns, or reprimanding them for caving in to expediency.
And in our daily lives, we should all pledge not to engage in unethical behavior just because it has become the norm. We can raise the level of integrity in this country by starting with our own families and our own companies.
Originally published in Nevada Business Magazine: