In my previous and second post on this subject, I reviewed the events leading to the killing of a Wal-Mart worker at the company’s Valley Stream Long Island New York store, and what should be done in response to this crime, in the parochial and more national sense.
Equally as important as law enforcement’s anemic response to this banality, where was the moral leadership in responding to this event, from elected officials? To date, nothing of any import or gravity has come forth from Long Island, NY elected officials or New York state officials such as the Governor. Critically, this was a stunning opportunity for president-elect Barack Obama to depart very briefly from purely economic issues (which are understandably pressing,) and exert moral leadership and direction, to a country that has all but lost its moral compass. Yet, nothing. How can it be that in this country, a nation hailed as the world’s most civilized, something like this can happen, and nary is a word uttered from our national leaders? The contradiction is stunning. As my previous profession used to be as a public policy and political affairs manager, I’ve advised several political officials in my career. Had I Barack Obama’s ear now, I would have advised him that this tragedy represented an enormous opportunity for him to set the moral tone for his incoming presidency; an opportunity to raise our sinking national decency along with raising our national economy.
A country cannot borrow civility. It cannot mortgage it; it cannot legislate it; and it cannot bail it out. It must both be set by example from without, and it must come from within. Our national and local leaders must see this, and set this example. Only then, will the “average person” respond in kind.
Twenty years ago, George H.W. Bush had the courage and foresight to urge us as a nation to become a “kinder, gentler nation.” One can agree or disagree with his politics (and God knows, his incompetent son, soon to exit the White House) but twenty years ago, Bush the elder had his finger on a growing problem within this country. How unfortunate that our present leaders, from Long Island to Congress and the White House, don’t seem to have that same courage. (I say this without partisanship.)
As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, I had hope that those individuals responsible for this sickening act would be brought to justice, swiftly and severely. Perhaps if that were done, and the punishments were widely reported by the media, then just maybe our collective conscience could be stirred.
As of today, it appears that’s not going to happen, and I’m reminded of a line from a song: Silence, like a cancer, grows.