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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Good Intentions

We’ve all heard the aphorism that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, a cautionary reminder that the law of unintended consequences is always waiting in the wings. Running across that phrase recently I got to thinking about intentions in general, and specifically about the subject of intentionality. I was struck by the paradox in that adage. You see, intentionality is purposeful, well informed and deliberate. It is the antithesis of casual, and quite unlike the kind of action leading to unforeseen outcomes suggested by that glib pearl of wisdom.

Why is this important? Well, the more I thought about it this the path to hell adage is a slippery bit of counsel that has seeped into our consciousness. It provides cover for actions we knew, or should have known would lead to a negative outcome but thought we could skate by. At least that is the way I hear it being used, especially by those in high office who should be acting with a very different kind of intent.

One group in particular, Congress, is now home to a fair number of folks who should be acting with intentionality—and at that with the intention to hold up the responsibilities with which they are charged. I want to be clear that this is not a partisan charge I am about to lay but a much broader indictment regarding the on-going derogation of office on the part of members of both parties and houses who use their position not to lead but to inflame. If anyone should be acting with cool heads and vigorous bi-partisan defense of the principles of democracy it is Congress. Regardless of their party or ideological differences we should expect our representatives to behave as leaders and not members of a mob or inciters of civil unrest—yet we see this unfolding before our eyes every single day. What is worse, too often those who abuse their office in such fashion are rewarded for their behavior by the very elements of the population who should be sanctioned for their intemperance.

Bad behavior in Congress is of course nothing new. It was not at all unusual in the early days of our country for members to raise more than harsh words with one another; occasionally fists and walking sticks came into play. But the deliberate—might I say intentional provocation of violence and undisguised threats are the fruit of an era in which the unthinkable has become commonplace and integrity has been consigned to the very hell with which the path to its doors is paved.

We are well past the time we should hold our representative accountable. If our lawmakers are above the law, we are a lawless nation. If we excuse departures as minor transgressions, refuse to censure those who cross the line of decency much less legality, betray their oaths and seek to subvert the authorities granted by our Constitution then we are lawless, we cannot claim otherwise. There must be a line that cannot be crossed, explained away or excused with the lame blandishment that the intentions were righteous even if the outcome were not.

In the days to come it is a certainty that the interests of political expediency will make every effort to prevail over the moral and legal obligations our representatives are pledged to uphold. It is up to us to turn a harsh light on any and every such action and expose those who act with the intent to betray our freedoms. A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.Marcus Tullius Cicero

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