The last few days I’ve been wrestling with a strange parenting question: how do I explain to my kids why mean, ruthless, greedy people often win in our society?
I don’t have to look far for evidence of this: Think Bill O’Reilly, whose bombast is so strong I can’t even listen to him for more than a few seconds. Think Vice President Dick Cheney who uses his post to bully his critics into silence. Think President Bush who uses henchman like Karl Rove to railroad a warped belief system down America’s collective throat. Or is it the other way around?
Democrats don’t get off the hook, either, it’s just that fewer are on the national stage right now. As a group, they’ve been very busy pointing fingers at everyone for their electoral problems except themselves. And Democrats often vote for the same lousy policies pushed by the Republicans.
In the meantime, our society continues to treat people like crap in all walks of life. Corporations are slicing pensions to shreds (The firm at which I work at announced this week that our defined-benefit pensions are being frozen and replaced with expanded 401k options.) Wal-Mart treats its employees like virtual slaves and causes harm to many communities.
Politicians are allowing greater and greater damage to occur to the environment, such as drilling in the Alaskan refuge. The poor are left to fend for themselves, whether it be in education or after Hurricanes such as Katrina. And for goodness sakes, our CIA may have torture prisons around the globe.
What really makes me cringe, is the message that rides alongside the horrible behavior and deeds occurring in our nation today: Those who are mean, ruthless and greedy win the highest positions in today’s society and become the wealthiest. While many successful people today are NOT mean, ruthless and greedy, our society and culture is glorifying the negative message.
Most of us do try to play by the rules, but as the nice people in this nation get pushed further and further down the economic and even social ladder, what will our kids think? Will they see the victors for the pretenders and losers that they are? Or will they decide to join the side of false success?
I know what I’m going to do: I will teach my son and daughter to treat people fairly and equitably. I will teach them that hard work is more rewarding to their souls, but may not always provide the richest monetary rewards. I will teach them to be honest and mindful of the things that are really important in life. But I do so with a slight degree of trepidation as I watch the very worst of our society dominate it.