One of the cds I listen to in my car when I drive is the Train cd “My Private Nation” , and the title track to the song is one of a select group of songs that tends to make me feel more aggressive as a driver. This is probably not a good thing, necessarily, but when I sing along to the song, with its driving and even angry tone about being judged harshly by people who think that the singer is some kind of punk who is getting too old and dressing a certain way to feel young and feeling that he is being dragged down by his own life, I tend to feel the blood rush in my veins a little. I suppose that is because I can relate, and not being the sort of person who tends to express my own frustrations very often, I tend to find that music allows me to give vent to my own feelings. It is probably well, then, that I do not listen to a lot of music that tends to inspire anger, as I tend to think that would be rather frightening for me, and counterproductive to my ends.
This morning I heard on the radio one of the deejays talking about how she was such a strong supporter of former Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, who resigned under pressure today in the face of state and federal investigations over official corruption related to the governor’s ambitious environmental lobbyist “life partner.” After winning election last November, Kitzhaber, who had spent a great deal of his three-plus terms in office seeking health care reform and environmental changes that are hostile to any kind of economic growth, had sought to focus attention on wealth redistribution and other socialistic aims, but his own personal scandals overwhelmed his political agenda and turned his story into an internationally known scandal, and an embarrassment for the entire state. There are a great many Oregonians, probably a plurality at least, if not a small majority, who support the governor’s aims, but they failed to take due heed of the fact that character can be a fatal flaw for many leaders.
The story, and the feeling of shame about scandal, reminds me of high school. During the spring of my junior year, I went on a visit to some friends of my stepfather in a different part of Florida, where we stayed as houseguests and went to Holy Day services down in West Palm Beach. In reading the newspaper there, I came across an editorial about my high school principal, who had fraudulently changed the grades of a football player to allow him to keep his academic eligibility, and then got caught when after the fact she tried to change them back. A career on the fast track, being a principal of a well-regarded high school with an International Bacchalaureate program (which I attended), became derailed by corruption in order to seek athletic glory, and she was transferred in shame and without fanfare to a small rural elementary school in the boondocks not far from where I grew up. Of course, I was deeply embarrassed that my school became a byword for corruption and malfeasance for the entire state, and no doubt many Oregonians share my embarrassment that our state’s politics should become a national and international joke for corruption. For the record, I am still trying to live down the hanging chads of the 2000 election, which nearly provoked a riot in my dorm when my roommate at the time played “We Are The Champions” when former president Bush was prematurely named as the victor. Let us simply say that I am no stranger to such shame.
Why is official corruption such a big problem? A great deal of the suffering of the world is the result of corruption. When bribery is required to get civil servants to do their jobs, the wealthy are able to, for a cost, have their way while poor and honest folk suffer because of the lack of infrastructure improvements or police or legal protection. When taxpayer money or foreign aid is diverted into the hands of corrupt politicians, the aid fails to serve its intended purpose, and so a few get wealthy while many suffer, discouraging people from providing aid if they know it will not help the poor and suffering and starving masses who fill late night television commercials. When corrupt authorities seek to punish those who reveal their ways, innocent people are exiled or beaten or thrown in prison or killed for their temerity in standing up to evil powers and principalities. Even ordinary citizens with no particular interest in politics face the diversion of their hard-earned income to pay directly or indirectly for corruption, leaving them to profit less than they would have under an honest regime with fair laws and just enforcement. Instead, corrupt authorities treat public funds and foreign aid as if they belonged to their own private nation, without any thought or concern for the ordinary people they cheat and harm.
There is a further problem even than this. The very legitimacy of authority itself is placed under attack when corrupt authorities act with impunity. It may seem a small thing to serve as the popular and populist governor of a moderately sized Western state like Oregon, with a national reputation but without the sort of scrutiny usually suffered by those in charge of larger states. It may seem as if popular support and a large majority in the state legislature would allow a certain freedom to do as one would like to support one’s grasping and ambitious fiancé. It might seem as if being the steward of a state should mean personal profit, but such behavior attacks the very foundation of the legitimacy of the state to be involved in anything. It is an immense evil for people to speak with their voices in favor of justice and equity while themselves seeking the same sort of corrupt exploitation that they criticize. A government cannot claim the moral authority to operate on behalf of the oppressed unless they themselves can demonstrate they are not oppressors. Those who seek to make laws and rule must show themselves to be under those same laws themselves, or else they are a law unto themselves and cannot be trusted . And without trust, no good government is possible.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: