Georgie Anne Geyer

Time for Ethical and Moral Reboot

WASHINGTON -- Random thoughts about America today as yet another great snowstorm threatens us at the gates:

I'm trying to make some sense out of our leaders here in the nation's capital, but the thoughts do not yield to a cogent or orderly outcome.

The Republicans are, as we know, somewhat fanatical about the government being responsible for everything bad -- from Genesis to changes in the weather -- yet think of this: If we're honest, so many events this winter are actually due to the vagaries of individual human beings.

I have been watching, somewhat obsessively as have many Americans these days, the TV and newspaper coverage of the killings in Newtown, Conn., and I cannot help but notice that virtually every commentator blames the town, then the "lack of mental health facilities" and finally the gun lobby.

But I, at least, have never yet seen someone place the responsibility and the blame where it really belongs -- squarely on the shoulders of Adam Lanza's mother, father and brother, those closest to him in physical, if not emotional, terms. They are the ones who should have monitored this "troubled" (to say the very least) boy and have put him away, if necessary.

That picture of him that goes round and round, with the weird bangs, the baggy clothes and the madly staring eyes, is one that I would classify as "evil." Oh, I know that's not a popular word these days, intimating as it does a force of the spirit in his sick mind, but that was my first choice. Sorry.

Instead of searching for just the right mental health program for him, Adam might more appropriately have been the subject of an exorcism, but please don't tell anyone I said that! But the most important act –- or non-act -- of all with regard to this sick boy was that of his mother, Nancy Lanza. She just left this boy alone, who spent hours in the dark playing killer games with all of her loaded guns available. No mental health program in the country could have undone that error.

Then there is our late ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, who died with three of his security men on Sept. 1, 2012, in vicious attacks, followed by raging fires, on the American consulate in Benghazi. From that first moment on, the arguments raged in Washington and elsewhere as to why the United States did not provide him with better security.

This, too, bewilders me. In my 40-some years covering countries and embassies around the world, it has always been my observation that it is the ambassadors on the spot -- and not faraway diplomats in Washington -- who make such decisions as the foolish Benghazi visit. Why did Stevens put himself and his men in such unnecessary danger on such a day?

This is the key issue to that debated "Benghazi question," and yet the real story, this one about his personal judgment, is never mentioned.

It seems that these days, especially since Newtown, all we hear on TV broadcasts and all we read in the papers are murders, some of them mass murders -- day after day! What is becoming of us? What HAS become of us?

I remember when Barack Obama was first elected, and found to his chagrin an economy collapsing, that I said and wrote, "He needs to 'hang someone.'" He needed to make an example of one of the Wall Street billionaires who dominated our finances, all for their own greedy benefit. But he didn't; he said it was because he was too afraid of its effect on the country.

The larger problem we have is quite simply a moral one. But that in itself is a huge problem, particularly when it involves a country like ours, no longer at the beginning of our national life but in middle age. How do you inject moral values and principles into a nation or polity already formed?

It is infinitely easier to build correctly from the start -- as, indeed, we did -- than to rebuild our political passions and educational system, etc., more than 200 years into our existence, when habits are well-established, wealth is isolated in small, exclusive enclaves, and the values that formed the country no longer dominate in day-to-day parlance.

Perhaps our greatest reason for hope lies in the fact that finally, if belatedly, a second-term President Obama is trying to "hang somebody" for the terrible greed that accompanied our economic downfall.

Indeed, every day on the pages of The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal the news columns are filled with one investigation after another -- of hedge funds, of CEOs finally having their infamous bonuses restricted, and of the Libor rate-fixers in Europe being investigated and punished.

We're facing many different challenges at the same time. Yet our nation still can work –- and will work -- once we get our moral and ethical compass pointing in the right direction.

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