Sunday, March 22, 2009

Madoff and Three Airplanes

"This country has nothing to fear from the crooked man who fails. We put him in jail. It is the crooked man who succeeds who is a threat to this country."
Theodore Roosevelt, Memphis, TN, October 25, 1905

A friend recently told me about this quote and said that for years we allowed the crooked man to succeed. We all worshipped at the altar we built to money. We lied, cheated and stole from each other so we could have larger televisions, bigger cars and monstrous houses in an effort to prove our worth to ourselves and to others. My friend reminded me that the great Roman Empire let its greed become a cancer and it rotted from within. He asked if the United States was any different. The lofty ideals that founded this country had been replaced by materialism and all levels of our society were infected with the illness.

Although I hated to hear what my friend said, I couldn’t entirely disagree with him. We created a huge bureaucracy to protect us from terrorist attack but isn’t the harm Madoff and those like him did to our country every bit as bad as what was done to us by three airplanes? In focusing on one type of terrorism, we ignored another.

So how does all this connect to communication, the focus of this blog?

It has to do with what we tell ourselves and the rest of the world. The goals for which we strive say everything about who we are. If we grasp for money and its trappings, that says something about us as human beings. On the other hand, if we strive for non-tangible wealth in health, education and peace, we convey a different message.

Now, as we push forward through these troubled times, we have the opportunity to set aside petty politics and money-grubbing. We can focus on the things that are truly important to our future – honesty and charity. If we do not, we tell the world and our children that we have learned nothing, that money is still the idol we worship and that we deserve our destruction.

I pray the story we tell is one of which we can all be proud.

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