River Forest has been my home for 68+ years, and given a choice to live elsewhere, somewhere special, I’d still prefer this lovely village. It has a natural beauty with its tree-lined streets, lush parks, and a flowing river at its border. Especially important is that village government actively cares for its residents.
Recently, I read an article by Ms. Peggy Daley, printed in the Aug. 3 issue of Wednesday Journal. I learned that River Forest is unique. It is actively guided by a code of ethics. I am sure most cities have dust-covered ethics codes on their legislative books, but I fear these guidelines are infrequently referenced and/or respected. Now I take further pride in being a member of the River Forest community, knowing of its adherence to a code of ethics.
I often refer to River Forest as an oasis of peace in a chaotic, warring world where truth is distorted, hate and racism violate our civil rights, and love of our fellow humans is devalued. I believe that some of this horror, and perhaps even the January 6 insurrection, might not have taken place if a code of ethics were valued and respected.
When ex-President Trump’s country club home was searched recently by the FBI, Trump made the episode public. He did so using distorted information about what, why, and how this took place. Trump accused the FBI of wrong-doing against him. On leaving office, Trump illegally removed government documents, some of which are highly classified, and took them to his Florida home. The FBI conducted its legally-authorized search and removal of the documents, prompted only after Trump ignored frequent and repeated requests to return these sensitive materials.
Perhaps you think as I do that the FBI acted appropriately in retrieving government-owned documents. Trump was treated like any other citizen, which is the theme of our law — that no one is above the law and all are treated equally.
In response, Trump spewed vile criticism against the FBI. One of his extremist followers attempted a violent attack on an FBI office, and he was killed in crossfire. This needless death could have been avoided were it not for Trump inciting folks with hateful and power-mad rhetoric. I question if Trump knows the definition of “ethics.”
How do we counter this kind of action and speech? I believe we begin by building public support for the values of honesty and integrity, that they are more valuable and important than greed and power. We must elect officials who embody truth, integrity, and moral principles, which are the foundation of sound ethics. Without establishing this we weaken and devalue our democracy.
I believe we need to adhere to a moral code to counter further subversion of our rights and corruption by our politicians. Many scholars are alarmingly aware of the lack of ethics in our society. As a result, universities and study groups are more prevalent in this study. By coincidence — and parental dotage aside — my son is research professor at the Center for Population Level Bio-Ethics at Rutgers University. Of course, there are many facets of ethics. All are important, including legislative and judicial leadership, necessary for our nation’s future.
We know we have to start small yet strong, similar to the basic code of ethics in River Forest. This is one way we can help strengthen our democracy.