As this column is being written, the trial of President Clinton is just about over and the verdict of acquittal is all but certain. The Mississippi Business Journal has intentionally stayed out of the impeachment fracas since it really doesn’t relate to business, and we believe adequate press space has been devoted to the subject. However, as the process draws to a conclusion I think it prudent to reflect on what has happened and see if there are any lessons to be learned from this historic event.
The impeachment of President Clinton is really a report card on the 60’s generation of which he and I are a part. Our generation discarded the rule book and embarked upon a passage that was distinctly different from our parents. We legitimized the loose drug and sex culture and thumbed our noses at authority figures. We trivialized the existing value system and launched the “me generation.” We refused to accept any delay in gratification of our desires. When the call came to fight in an unpopular war, we refused to go.
In accomplishing all these goals, we learned to lie and “take the easy way out.”
Mostly the changed morality stretches across the political spectrum. Conservatives are more circumspect while liberals are more open. Those changes have taken a toll on other generations as well. Our country has experienced a general lowering of traditional morality in every class and every age group. The impeachment of the president is an attempt by conservatives to refute the truth about our changed values. They will fail because the country, as a whole, has endorsed the changed morality and wishes to discuss it no more.
Over the history of our country we have experienced a number of shifts in public attitude. I dare say that our lowered morality is still above that in vogue during the colonial era of the late 1700s and early 1800s. Later, our country was greatly influenced by the heightened morality brought about by Victorian England. That influence has predominated in America until the 60’s revolution.
What about the future? Are we forever mired down in the muck of loose morality? I think not.
In my judgment, the younger generations of Americans are going to swing the pendulum back toward truth and values. Once us oldsters hand over the reins of power, I think we will see a detectable shift back toward responsible living.
In an emotional appeal during the final days of the trial of President Clinton, U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, leader of the impeachment managers, said that Americans want something to believe in, a sense that society is ethical and that truth is a worthy goal.
I think Congressman Hyde is wrong; I think voting-age Americans want just what they have. They twice elected Bill Clinton to the presidency even though his character deficiencies were well known.
It is future generations who I believe will not stand for the shenanigans that are now prevalent in American business and politics. Us gray-haired, former hippies are destined to live out our careers in a swamp of self gratification amid attempts to proclaim value-based living without inconveniencing ourselves to make the hard choices that such a commitment entails.
Certainly there are exceptions.
Our generation has produced heroes of the utmost caliber. Many of us answered the call to arms when our country deemed it necessary. Many of us would go to our grave before we would speak an untruth or take unfair advantage of our fellow man. Sadly, that group seems to be in the minority for the time being.
I will close by reminding us of the long lost concept put forward by President John F. Kennedy challenging us to do things to benefit our country rather than seeking ways that the country can benefit us.
THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT
Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
— PABLO PICASSO
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.