Penner: Thoughts on change

When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security – then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”

These are the words of Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, in an op-ed for the Washington Post. At the peak of his career, the Admiral oversaw the 2011 Navy Seal raid in Pakistan that hunted down and neutralized Osama bin Laden.

In the op-ed, McRaven addresses the latest casualty in the war on truth, the dismissal of a well-qualified, decorated and loyal patriot, fellow retired Navy Admiral Joe Maguire, from his current post as acting director of national intelligence.

McRaven writes about Maguire; “he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right. Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment….Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.”

McRaven then concludes with the paragraph quoted at the beginning of this column, adding, “As Americans, we should be frightened—deeply afraid for the future of the nation.”

This well informed, intellectually disciplined opinion, coming from a man who has lived his entire adult life as one who is willing to die for his country, if called upon to do so. This man, who understands what it means to subjugate his will to follow orders of his commander-in-chief, and yet he also recognizes he must follow a greater call to protect and serve the republic which cannot be sacrificed for the benefit of one man.

It takes guts to stand up and speak out for what is right and good for our democracy and this country. We cannot separate one from the other, otherwise, we have failed in our mission.

McRaven uses the quote from Edmund Burke who once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Which begs the questions; If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

Our character and our legacy are intimately intertwined as we live out our lives through the choices we make. Character building begins at a very young age before we even are aware it is taking place. By the age of 5 or 6, much of our learning regarding our character has already become internalized, and as we age, the decisions we make builds upon that foundation. Change, though possible, becomes increasingly difficult when we are adults as we move beyond middle age. The old saying rings true, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

That said, change can happen, especially if one is so inclined and motivated to make a change for the better, because we are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.

Today, right now, I’m calling it out. This democracy, this republic must be protected from threats from without and within. We who believe in the good hearts of men and women can no longer remain silent and allow this reshaping of our constitutionally inspired government to become an instrument of oppression and further corruption. We can no longer permit the intrusion of foreign governments to overtly influence our electoral process of self-governance and leadership. This activity must cease!

An often repeated, but morally outmoded response is, “we didn’t elect a pastor to lead our country. This is the better alternative to anything else.” If so, ask yourself, when has the transformation of our democracy become acceptable into one that endorses blatant, openly demonstrated corruption and immoral behavior on a colossal scale? When is this ever acceptable?

On Twitter, an individual identified as @SSGenx responds to McRaven’s op-ed, “I believed this for sometime…it (is) saturation criminality, its purpose is to overwhelm & create chaos.”

To describe this as overwhelming is an understatement. But to label it as saturation criminality creating chaos is an admission that we have a problem.

Where do we go from here? Let us all agree we have a serious problem regarding the errant direction our country is going. Change begins with this. No more justification of illegal and obstructive behavior. No more silence and shrugging of the shoulders when we see abhorrent behavior. No covering of our face in silent embarrassment. The time for action has come. The time to get involved to engage and participate in saving democracy from tyranny is now.