Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. - Winston Churchill
Churchill’s admonition is a challenging call to moral action for all Generals, Presidents, and leaders of institutions. It’s a sober reminder to embed virtues, rather than paramours, in the military and other institutions.
Virtues of honor, integrity, fidelity are viewed as irrelevant and outmoded by the erudite and sophisticated American ‘Kardashian Kulture.’ The shameless media drumbeat espouses that the personal sins of consenting adults are inconsequential to society. After all, they are consenting adults, freely choosing to make mistakes and no one should hold them accountable. No one gets hurt, right? Not unless, the safety and lives of soldiers on the battlefield and citizens are in danger with a distracted and bemused commander. Not unless, a marriage dissolves and children suffer.
Where is honor and duty when a married Four Star General engages in a battlefield tryst while soldiers are dying in two wars? David Petraeus’ ignominious fall from grace is epically reckless by publicly disgracing three institutions, the military, the CIA, and marriage in one fell swoop.
How many solemn oaths did he violate when he embedded Mrs. Paula Broadwell? The repository of the nation’s secrets was, himself, the sentry of his own insidious secret.
This Four Star General is not the sum of his medals, nor the depth of his military experience. As Andre Malraux observed, “man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” So, too, David Petraeus is defined by his own personal secret, bereft of fidelity to his marriage, his storied military career, and his CIA career.
The brilliant military strategist of the Iraq surge will undoubtedly rebound and enjoy a second chance in the “no consequence” society. Private behavior of “consenting adults” nor matter how risky, dangerous, and scandalous, is of no concern to the public says the media. Like other famous scandal rebounders, the Petraeus’ collateral damage harms the culture and its institutions, not the miscreant. Who pays the price for his personal transgressions? Private sins reverberate throughout the culture and leave scar tissue on future generations.
Virtue no longer matters and is routinely marginalized, minimized, and scoffed at by the entertainment and cultural elites. Tell that to the millions of parents who were confronted with the constant media narrative of President Bill Clinton’s outrageous and immoral behavior in the Oval Office. Recall how the press told us to mind our own business, not the President’s. The elites defined the scandal as a silly distraction and unworthy of investigation since it was the President’s personal life. Despite having perjured himself, damaged the dignity of the office, mocked his marriage, corrupted the children of the world with his salacious lesson in oral sex, it was much ado about nothing. Thanks to Clinton’s personal peccadillos, questions are still reverberating at the nation’s dinner tables, as small children ask, “Mom, what is oral sex?”
No consequences to the culture? Don’t be fooled by the media. When a President repeatedly protests that oral sex isn’t sex, it has profound consequences to the culture. According to CDC data, the increase in oral cancer is attributed to the popularity of oral sex and the HPV virus. Not surprisingly, the scandal’s consequence and burden is borne by America’s teens. Typically, Bill Clinton is now reinvented as the honorable senior statesman and global humanitarian.
In the last year, Americans learn that the vaunted members of the U.S. Secret Service procured prostitutes in Columbia while in the service of Presidential protection. Another institution falls. Congress, also, did not escape scandal when Congressman Anthony Weiner was caught sexting nude photos of his genitals over the Internet. When leaders of government violate their oath of office and display heinous conduct, the rank and file are given license to mimic the deplorable behavior. It’s open season for sex scandals.
Welcome to the “no consequences culture.”
Why are fidelity and honor to family, country, and work, so integral to our culture?
When the leaders of the country, despoil their hallowed positions, the culture is diminished and damaged. Children learn that sacrificial and honorable service to country is meaningless. Children learn that oaths and vows are disposable. Children learn that sex is a commodity to be devalued, cheapened, and exploited. Children learn that solemn oaths of office and marriage are a sham. Children are the silent victims of infidelity and the unintended victims and audience of consenting adults wreaking havoc and pain.
Semper Fidelis, always faithful will never sell a reality show. Fidelity is portrayed in the media as boring and an old fashioned virtue. It only matters when soldiers are in the trenches taking on enemy mortars. It only matters when innocent children need parents to be faithful to each other always and everywhere.
Carved on the entrance wall at the CIA building in Langley, Virginia are 103 stars representing each one of the CIA heroes who died in the service of their country. The identities of the unnamed stars remain secret, even in death. These anonymous warriors served valiantly and bravely without fame or fortune. Churchill would admonish us to honor their singular star, rather than the sexploits of a four star.
Noteworthy is the mission of the CIA engraved and embedded on the lobby floor at Langley:
”Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free.” John 8:32
Now that’s a virtue to be embedded in our nation’s heart and soul.
© Elizabeth Yore-2012 All Rights Reserved. Elizabeth Yore is the former Special Counsel at Harpo, Inc.where she served as Oprah Winfrey’s Child Advocate. She was also the former General Counsel at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.