The United States of Corruption

The Institutionalized Failure of Leadership

Eyes rolling at a monumental scale. Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash

The fish rots from the head down.

  • The Government
  • The Corporation
  • The Church

Why have people lost trust in institutions?

  • A government that does not uphold the law, leaving rich, white men unaccountable for crimes against humanity; a military industrial complex responsible for military coups, puppet regimes, genocide, political oppression, imprisonment and torture.
  • A corporate hierarchy that takes from the poor to give to the rich, creating incentives for the worst of human behaviour, encouraging addictive, self-destructive behaviours to drive profits that benefit a select few.
  • A church that systemically perpetuates physical, emotional and sexual abuse to support cults of personality and leaders who represent everything that they preach against: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

The Medium is the Message

It is said that actions speak louder than words. Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.”

McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

The authorities have authorized the authority on truth. The truth has been written and codified in the form of laws, currencies, and sacred texts.

  • The laws were written to institutionalize systemic injustice.
  • The currencies were printed as a means of purchasing power to avoid criminal liability and prosecution.
  • The sacred texts were canonized by the powerful to empower the spiritual abuse of the powerless by those who held power over them.

America, The Late Great Empire of Planet Earth

America, when were you ever great?

The late, great American myth is unravelling before our eyes.

The Late, Great Planet Earth is a treatment of literalist, premillennial, dispensational eschatology. As such, it compared end-time prophecies in the Bible with then-current events in an attempt to predict future scenarios resulting in the rapture of believers before the tribulation and Second Coming of Christ to establish his thousand-year (i.e. millennial) Kingdom on Earth. Emphasizing various passages in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation, Lindsey originally suggested the possibility that these climactic events might occur during the 1980s, which he interpreted as one generation from the foundation of modern Israel during 1948, a major event according to some conservative evangelical schools of eschatological thought.

The true believers have boarded their ideological ark, a cult of cultural homogeneity, awaiting the final destruction and the eternal conscious torment of everyone who rejects American nationalist evangelical orthodoxy.

What we are witnessing is apparently late capitalism.

“Late capitalism,” in its current usage, is a catchall phrase for the indignities and absurdities of our contemporary economy, with its yawning inequality and super-powered corporations and shrinking middle class.

The decline of the empire is embodied by its three great institutions:

  • The government: institutionalizing injustice
  • The corporation: purchasing power
  • The church: perpetuating abuse

Institutionalizing Injustice

Native Americans were entirely outside the constitutional system, defined as an alien people in their own land. They were governed not by ordinary American laws, but by federal treaties and statutes that stripped tribes of most of their land and much of their autonomy. The Bill of Rights was in force for nearly 135 years before Congress granted Native Americans U.S. citizenship.

And it was well understood that there was a “race exception” to the Constitution. Slavery was this country’s original sin. For the first 78 years after it was ratified, the Constitution protected slavery and legalized racial subordination. Instead of constitutional rights, slaves were governed by “slave codes” that controlled every aspect of their lives. They had no access to the rule of law: they could not go to court, make contracts, or own any property. They could be whipped, branded, imprisoned without trial, and hanged. In short, as one infamous Supreme Court opinion declared: “Blacks had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Purchasing Power

In the end, the settlement made little difference in the actual sales practices of OxyContin, with the company’s reps largely continuing to downplay the dangers of opioids while focusing on the prevalence of chronic pain. Between 2006 and 2015, Purdue and other opioid-makers spent $900 million on lobbyists and political contributions — eight times more than what the gun lobby spent, according to a recent series by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity. The company didn’t reformulate the drug to be abuse-resistant until 2010 — and, many believe, only because the original OxyContin patent was about to expire, in an end run designed to block competition from generic drugs. By then, it was too late. OxyContin’s chemical cousin, heroin, and, later, fentanyl fueled epidemics of their own the moment OxyContin became harder to get and to abuse. Today, Americans, who make up just over 4 percent of the world’s population, consume almost a third of its opioids.

Perpetuating Abuse

Without a centralized theological body, evangelical policies and cultures vary radically, and while some church leaders have worked to prevent abuse and harassment, many have not. The causes are manifold: authoritarian leadership, twisted theology, institutional protection, obliviousness about the problem and, perhaps most shocking, a diminishment of the trauma sexual abuse creates — especially surprising in a church culture that believes strongly in the sanctity of sex. “Sexual abuse is the most underreported thing — both in and outside the church — that exists,” says Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham and a former Florida assistant state attorney.

As a prosecutor, Tchividjian saw dozens of sexual abuse victims harmed by a church’s response to them. (In one case, a pastor did not report a sexual offender in his church because the man had repented. The offender was arrested only after he had abused five more children.) In 2004, Tchividjian founded the nonprofit organization Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), which trains Christian institutions in how to prevent sexual abuse and performs independent investigations when churches face an abuse crisis. Tchividjian says sexual abuse in evangelicalism rivals the Catholic Church scandal of the early 2000s.

In the end, conservative Christians backed Trump in record numbers. He won 81 percent of the white evangelical vote — a higher share than George W. Bush, John McCain, or Mitt Romney. As a result, the religious right — which for decades has grounded its political appeal in moral “values” such as “life” and “family” and “religious freedom” — has effectively become a subsidiary of the alt-right, yoked to Trump’s white nationalist agenda. Evangelicals have traded Ronald Reagan’s gospel-inspired depiction of America as a “shining city on a hill” for Trump’s dark vision of “American carnage.” And in doing so, they have returned the religious right to its own origins — as a movement founded to maintain the South’s segregationist “way of life.”

“The overwhelming support for Trump heralds the religious right coming full circle to embrace its roots in racism,” says Randall Balmer, a historian of American religion at Dartmouth College. “The breakthrough of the 2016 election lies in the fact that the religious right, in its support for a thrice-married, self-confessed sexual predator, finally dispensed with the fiction that it was concerned about abortion or ‘family values.’ ”

But for now, he concedes, the religious right has forfeited its moral standing by aligning itself with the alt-right’s gospel of white supremacy. “Evangelicals are a tool of Donald Trump,” Schenck says. “This could be the undoing of American evangelicalism. We could just become a political operation in the guise of a church.”

This month’s grand jury report detailing abuse allegations against Catholic clergy members dealt solely with archdioceses in Pennsylvania.

But the report has already prompted other states to open their own inquiries.

The Pennsylvania report detailed documents from those Catholic dioceses showing more than 300 “predator priests” have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims over seven decades, reigniting an international firestorm consuming the church on several continents. “For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away,” the report said. “Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”

Amazing disgrace! How great the fall.

“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’

She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

Sometimes one wonders if people ever read their own sacred texts. Reading does not necessarily correlate with understanding.

When truth is not truth, I suppose it is difficult to know what to believe.

The fish rots from the head down.

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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