I want to write something a little different this week and I hope it is uplifting and maybe even inspirational. When we listen and watch the news or even look at what is happening in our own neighborhoods, particularly in the realm of government, it is easy to get discouraged.
We are fighting an out-of-state California Developer in our Plantation neighborhood who wants to put 750 single-family housing units on 22.5 acres of a legacy golf course. Most of the golfers—60% don’t even live in Garden City and are for the project. A much greater number of neighbors and homeowners are against it.
At a meeting I attended today were two incredible octogenarian gentleman who had given their entire lives to serving our country in the military. Their sense of service was at their very corps and served as the moral predicate for the way they wanted to proceed with our project. Prior to being in the military they both came from very different backgrounds. They both, I am sure, were well grounded in the everyday issues of right and wrong that confront us all the time and shared values given to them by parents who were themselves grounded in morality. One said to me that no matter what, we must play by the rules and be completely transparent in our goals and our actions. The action of our opponents—the reason for our meeting, I felt represented a material misrepresentation of facts and law. My friends advised me that for that very reason, we must take care in disputing the calumaes that had been presented before a city “Quasi-Judicial Body” and give our opponent the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was forgetful, maybe he had an ulterior motive, maybe he was grandstanding for the developer who was sitting in the audience. “Judge actions and the motives will be revealed soon enough.” Playing fair was part of the process, but not only that they each had a “code” and part of that code was recognizing, that in addition to representing a position, they also represented “fairness and process.”
These two men are part of the GREATEST GENERATION as was my father who went to the Naval Academy and was in the Class of “the great 42”. The honor Code was at the heart of everything they stood for as Midshipman, then Naval Officers, and then when they retired and continued to serve their communities and families as they had their country—just like the two men who sat in front of me today.
I know many military officers who live by their Codes, but I also know a much smaller number who use the Code to cut corners, as an entrée to legitimacy, for economic advantage or as a conduit to a position of authority. I know graduates of military academies who are serving in our legislature and at the same time are legal counsel for a municipality or City government in our State. My father-in-law, a retired Naval Officer, had a chance to take a job in retirement on the BOEING board of directors—many others did, but he couldn’t figure out “who he would be serving” The military, the military industrial complex or himself. So, he bought a farm on Hill Road and lived with the peace in his heart that he could only serve one Master.
The demise of institutions of all types, government, military, the church, the academy and schools, business—big and small but mostly big, and many of our non-profits have lost all credibility with the public because they are seen mostly as serving themselves. When a politician in local, State or The Federal Government takes a campaign contribution from any entity that has, will or will soon to be doing business before that body—they are serving at least two masters and they most likely aren’t serving the people.
When a politician takes a campaign contribution of $5000 from a person or company that will have business to do before her, and when an individual citizen in their district can only afford a $100 contribution, the process at least appears to be tilted away from the citizen voter who the politician is supposed to represent. Who will that politician be likely to serve? At the very least there is an appearance of a conflict. (?)
I certainly hope that in our State there is no “pay for play” going on and I am not making that assertion. When I look at the activities at the Governor’s Cup and the burrowing, squatting, and hunkering (you choose the word) that goes on between politicians and the lobbyists who help offset the costs of the festivities, for me the damage is done. The appearance of symbiotic collusion between the private sector and a government employee or an elected or appointed official does not only hurt the parties that are impacted by the decision. When the process is seen by, WE THE PEOPLE as being tainted, then the legitimacy of the process comes into question. It is the legitimacy of the process that gives confidence to the people who elected our officials to allow the process to continue. Confidence in the “integrity of process” is the basis of our system of government. For Courts and legislative bodies, it is imperative that those in positions of authority know that they owe an allegiance to those who elected them, and to the process that defines their actions.
All that I have described above can be summed up in two words. Duty and honor. Honor yourself and your opponent. When you start serving yourself instead of those you have been entrusted to serve the people will find out and the process will take a hit in the gut that will take time to recover from.
My two friends that I was honored to sit across today know all this intuitively. It is part of their souls and their code. We could all learn from them.
When we left, they both said to me individually “I have a Code”. Part of that code is giving the benefit of the doubt to the person that betrayed your trust. I was reminded of Luke 26: “Love your enemy”. All great codes have a lot in common. Maybe they come from the same place?