The World’s Integrity on the Wane
IN AMERICA, as well as in other parts of the world, graft and charges of corruption, government scandals of all kinds, have been spoken of almost daily in the public press. Many people appear to be completely indifferent toward it all. Little do they realize that our generation faces the greatest crisis of all time. True, in past times there have been some corrupt rulers and men, but today the position has grown much worse. Upon our generation they are pinning the labels: Lack of Integrity in Public Life, Breakdown of Morals, The Twilight of Honor. At all levels of the government, from the top right on down to the smallest employee, there appears to be a shocking lack of integrity. Harry S. Truman, the ex-president of the United States, was surrounded by men friendly with corrupt men. Members of his cabinet came close to the spotlight of corruption. Congressmen were sent to prison for law violation.
2 We can go right down the list. In the judicial department during our generation men have been found who were not men of integrity. We find corruption in federal agencies, in state and civil administrations. Police and firemen brazenly accept bribes and shake down businessmen, allowing all forms of gambling and vice to be carried on. The evils flourish. Tax collectors accept what they call “gifts” from certainpeople, in this way amassing considerable fortunes. Immigration inspectors victimize immigrants coming to the United States. Yes, men in office, high and low, wherever you find them, take oaths of office to be loyal to their governments, to obey the laws of the land and uphold them, but many do this insincerely, with mental reservations. One of the most profitable items that is for sale in Washington is “influence”, knowing someone in public office. In this way people who are not honest and upright clear their records and keep going, escaping punishment. The agencies that have been set up to preserve order and prevent wrongdoing, these too are found of questionable integrity. The highly touted FBI, the Department of Justice, and, yes, the patrolman on his beat, they all come in for scrutiny and questioning in the minds of the people.
3 In the New York Times of March 3, 1952, this dispatch appeared: “Representative Kenneth B. Keating, Republican of New York, disclosed today that House investigators have uncovered cases where the Justice Department has ‘whitewashed’ criminal charges brought against ‘influential or politically powerful figures.’ There are some cases, he said, ‘where the motions have been gone through to prosecute but it was actually whitewashed, or where ridiculous settlements have been made with influential or politically powerful figures.’ Other cases, he added, have not been properly prosecuted ‘where persons connected with the administration of justice have received outside income from sources which would interfere with the performance of their duty.’”
4 A similar report appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on July 20, 1952: “Rep. Kenneth B. Keating . . . said tonight House corruption hunters will soon reveal new ‘connections’ between Democratic leaders and handling of Justice Department cases. He also predicted in an interview that more top Justice Department officials will quit or be dismissed in the near future. . . . Attorney General J. Howard McGrath, three Assistant Attorney Generals and half a dozen other officials have quit or been ousted since the committee began its inquiry. . . . Rep. Keating said he believes there was ‘a definite connection between the political contributions and the failure to prosecute.’”
5 Commenting on the firing of the government’s corruption investigator, Newbold Morris, and the ousting of the attorney general, J. Howard McGrath, in the April 12, 1952, issue, The Nation said, in part: “Nor should a permanent law-enforcement agency like the FBI be assigned the job of investigating corruption in either branch of the government. The FBI must seek appropriations from Congress; moreover, it is conceivable that some corruption might be found in the Bureau itself, not to mention the department to which it belongs. Presumably it was with these thoughts in mind that Truman approved the appointment of Morris as an independent investigator. But the President had not reckoned with J. Edgar Hoover. It is now clear that from the first Hoover wanted his FBI to participate in any investigation and at the same time to be itself immune from investigation.”
6 The Nation then goes on to show how it was that three senators aided J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, who saw to it that the investigation into corruption in government offices “has been blocked”.
7 And so the politicians go on selling jobs, accepting gifts and favors from people doing business with the government, and peddling influence at high prices. Their dominant idea seems to be that anything is all right if you can get away with it without getting caught. This shocking lack of integrity is not limited to the United States. It is present in every part of the world. In Latin America or the Middle East, in Europe or the Far East, wherever you go you will find some men ready to handle bribes, deal in corruption and tell lies for a price, and to sell influence. Many who get away with things are often regarded as great men. On the other hand, there was Adolf Hitler, a man who did not know the meaning of integrity, who went back on his treaties of friendship and mutual aid, who lied about not attacking his neighboring countries. He might have been hailed as a master strategist and diplomat if he had won his battles; but he was one who got caught. It is too bad so few get caught.
8 Does this shocking lack of integrity exist only among those who go to make up the governments and the ruling bodies? Fraud, dishonesty, stealing, coveting, murder, these things fill the pages of the daily newspapers. Even the students of the schools, the coming generation, have not escaped from the moral decay that has struck the world. Athletes take pay to throw games. Worse than this is the mental attitude of the students who cheat in their classroom tests. At the United States Military Academy, the training ground for the men who are charged with the defense of the United States, ninety cadets were caught cheating in examinations.
9 Turn to the high schools, the younger people of the nation. In the New York Times, April 9, 1952, appeared a report of a meeting at Stamford, Connecticut, of about a hundred students of the Stamford and Greenwich high schools. It said: “As long as there is corruption and cheating in the government the average high school student does not see why he should not do the same thing, members of student panels reported here today. The undergraduates agreed that 80 per cent cheat often, 10 per cent ‘as often as they can’, and 10 per cent rarely or hardly ever. One student said that a nation-wide survey had shown that only 1 per cent never cheated at all.”
10 Yes, in every walk of life, from the high politicians down to the children in the schools, the system of life has drifted to expediency, that is, the doing of what promises to be of use rather than what is right. Because America has ascended to its position of world leadership, we find many smaller nations of the world looking to America for leadership. But what do they see? When they want to imitate America, thinking they can gain success, they find that America seems to be abandoning the outward appearance of Christianity, and, like ancient Rome, it heads for the moral decay that brings ruin.
11 One of New York’s leading clergymen recently said: “Unless we have a finer type of citizen, we are heading for a crash. Our prime need is integrity—men . . . whose moral sense is sound.”
12 The churches of America—and they do exercise considerable influence among the people—claim the responsibility for upholding the morals of the people, teaching them the principles of God, of righteousness. But the program they have followed and are even now pursuing is not producing true Christians. That may seem like a strong statement, but it was admitted recently by the president of the National Lutheran Council to a Council meeting at Atlantic City, New Jersey. He said: “Disclosures of ‘fraud and dishonesty’ in American life are indications the Church has failed in its task of Christianizing the nation.”—New York Herald Tribune, January 30, 1952.
13 Men are failing to keep integrity to each other; they fail to keep integrity to their government; they fail to keep their word; and, yes, they are failing to keep integrity to Almighty God. Then we ask, Under these distressing conditions and in these evil days, should we expect people to keep integrity and tell the truth? The influence for wrongdoing is so powerful. The rulers of the people have set such a bad example. The sensational press and the entertainment world also contribute a share to the moral breakdown. Indeed, nowadays honest men, men who will not accept something for doing wrong, are regarded by many as fools. They seem to think everybody should get everything he can for himself, no matter how he acquires it. They say ‘you are a fool for not getting in on the “fun” or for not getting on the “gravy train” of graft’. Some men even undergo great persecution just because they do what is right.
14 Well, is it possible for men to live in integrity to God? What future is there for the youth of our day who seek righteousness? Is there any hope that righteousness can triumph?