On corruption

We live in a corrupt society. Not necessarily in the legal sense—much of what some refer to as corruption is completely legal. The corruption we deal with is in the faith we have in our world.

  • A white police officer shoots an unarmed African-American man. After the investigation, the officer faces no charges or discipline.
  • A legislator votes against a particular bill that is overwhelmingly supported by her constituents yet opposed by her campaign donors.
  • A judge rules in favor of a party whose CEO has given donations to the judge’s election campaign.
  • A president appoints a barely qualified major campaign fundraiser to an ambassadorship.

Governments that do not maintain the faith of the people struggle and fail. In the old Soviet Union, it certainly did not help that the common citizen knew that the Soviet government’s propaganda was not rooted in the truth.

Today, it is hard to have faith in our government. The Eric Garner and Michael Brown deaths at the hands of white police officers have brought that lack of faith to the surface. Scores of communities were angered and disappointed when grand juries decided not to indict the police officers involved. Twenty some years ago, Los Angeles erupted in riots after a jury acquitted police officers who had used severe force against Rodney King—and their actions were captured on video.

I do not know the facts of each case that occupies us this year. It is possible that the officers in each case did nothing wrong. A good faith investigation might compel that result.

Our problem, however, is that we do not trust The System. If Officer Wilson had been indicted in Missouri, the police and their supporters would likely decry the indictment as an effort to offer a sacrifice to political constituencies. When the grand jury chooses not to indict Officer Wilson, some suspect that the prosecutor got the result he wanted.

Our system has been corrupted—not criminally, but in the root of the word: broken. If our nation is to thrive, we must find a way to restore our faith in The System. Campaign finance reform is one obvious solution (albeit politically difficult). How we rebuild the trust so that everyone has faith that investigations into wrongdoing is the bigger question. We may not find the answer, but we have to keep asking the question.


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