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Commentary: The Question

By Mel Hays, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX – The student's question was simple, concise, and valid: "So, Mr. Hays, why don't they just tell the truth and move on?" Unfortunately, I did not have a meaningful answer and replied truthfully, "I don't know."

In daily reflection, this answer has become increasing problematic for me. The topic that brought up this question was the current political tussle in Washington over the firing of several U.S. Attorneys. In the course of discussing the democratic model of government with newly placed refugee students, it is becoming exceedingly difficult to separate the obvious, "Why don't they just tell the truth", from the politically expedient nuance: "We will allow visits, but not sworn testimony." It appears that our culture is ever embracing a mentality of definition by convenience and self preservationism that extends only to a select few.

When we review the major players in this event a universal thread weaves its way through the tapestry: they are all attorneys. Additionally, Mr. Gonzales, Ms. Miers, Ms. Gooding, Mr. Sampson, Mr. Libby, and Mr. Fielding all attended fine, reputable, honorable law schools. And, the study and practice of the law is one of the noblest of professions.

What is absolutely incredulous to me is that all took an oath that no where mentions a moral and ethical obligation to tell the truth. Curiously, how can we expect them and others in political theater to protect and defend the U. S. Constitution when they do not pledge allegiance to tell the truth? Have we become so tainted in our political entrenchments, dogmas, and alignments that we zealously defend and litigate our right not to tell the truth and attorneys must hire attorneys to represent them in political skirmishes?

Before we become too sophisticated in our adult mentality and expression, please consider how this concept of definitional differentiation is viewed by students and children. Our educational system is tied to a system of absolutes and at times they get skewed, but we try daily to demonstrate equality and equilibrium. If public education followed the Washington model the day would be spent in playground shouting matches of "Why?", "Cause, I said so!", "How you gonna make me?", "Cause I'm the teacher!", "So?" and the loop plays on and nothing is accomplished. Apparently many very intelligent folks have forgotten cardinal rule of elementary school: 'We've all got to share'. Tragically, within the spheres of power and influence, selfishness and team loyalty are apparently preferred character traits.

Before this verbal donnybrook exacerbates, it would be prudent for all to pause and reflect on what this exercise is teaching our youth. Is this the behavioral and ethical model politicians wish to be emulated and promulgated by those who will follow in our political and social footsteps?

Prior to the next barrage of legal wrangling, taking a couple of minutes to reflect on Harry Chapin's lyrics of "Cats in the Cradle" might put this issue into a sobering future perspective. Not only are the early words: "I'm gonna be like you, dad. You know I'm gonna be like you" weighty, but equally as chilling the father's subsequent revelation, "He'd grown up just like me, my boy was just like me" - His analogy is well suited for these times: Especially for those of us who children are heading to law school in the fall.

Guard ye well your responsibility, Mr. President, Congress, and the Judiciary - the little folks are learning by both actions and words.

Mel Hays is a North Texas-area teacher who lives in McKinney.

If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.