“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country…” That’s the opening sentence of the oath Boy Scouts take when joining. I remembered this oath as President Trump spoke to an estimated 70,000 at the Boy Scout Jamboree. Much of his address was disturbing, but on one point we should all agree: we could use a little more loyalty right now.
The concept of loyalty deserves further deliberation, especially since it seems to be a major theme for this president. Trump has twisted his interpretation to mean a blind loyalty to him and his office; either ignoring or misunderstanding that everyone’s primary loyalty is not to an office or officeholder but to all. The oath Trump, Congressmen and most elected and appointed government officials swear upon taking office is to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
This language is as transparent as cellophane but is being abused by too many too often. Our duty and responsibility is to our government of laws, not just to a political party or philosophy, a caucus (or faction within that caucus), or even to a certain demographic class, race, or segment of the populous. It is a pledge that the oath taker will represent all people within the individual’s purview.
We see this misinterpretation in today’s business world, where loyalty appears to be applied almost exclusively to shareholders and executives, minimizing or overlooking altogether the employees, customers and the communities they serve. Religious institutions too often focus on the clergy, institution or a particular congregation, not to the community at large. The same misdirection can be applied to education, healthcare, our environment and just about any topic you can name, but nowhere is this loyalty more abused than in today’s political spectrum.
Lawmakers, behind closed doors, craft laws and budgets with only a handful of people making critical decisions. Putting aside the reality that seldom are public hearings conducted to discuss and deliberate the issue, too frequently the collective body of legislators know little or nothing about bills until they are asked to vote. Legislative districts are drawn, again behind closed doors, without regard to all the electorate but only to the party in power to ensure they remain in control. These are just two examples that have become the norm. And let us hasten to say both political parties are (or have been) equally guilty.
We owe loyalty to our families, our friends, employers, church and to all organizations to which we belong. We would go further by extending loyalty – or perhaps more aptly put, respect – to our President, our Governor or any high-ranking official, but loyalty is a two-way proposition. No cabinet official, no elected representative and no party should be totally loyal to a single person to the exclusion of the broader obligation to God and Country.
Our nation’s history is filled with examples of men and women who followed this loyalty oath, who not only pledged loyalty but, too often, gave their lives defending it.
Let us be vigilant in ensuring ours is not a misplaced loyalty.
Tom Campbell is the Executive Producer and Moderator of NC Spin.