The human conscience, a guard against irreparable damages, a protector of fragility, and source of strength in times of trying decision making. Webster's defines it as "a knowledge or feeling of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right." If there still is any question of what the human conscience is or is not, a certain southern rock band asks, "Watergate does not bother me, does your conscience bother you?"
Where am I going with all of this? In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's wrath, in the loss of one of this nation's most influential chief justices, and as we all pay an arm and a leg at the pump, I've been wondering a lot about the human conscience.
First, and the least complicated I think is the absurdity at the gas pumps. Whether this be middle eastern relations, the administration, or just a bad trend, here is the problem. Every bit of spending the U.S. does, for cleanup following major natural emergencies or for wars in countries we know very little about, creates an unbelievable amount of deficit. Deficit spending began with Vietnam and has only grown out of control since. I don't have a solution, I'm not sure I'll even pretend to understand economics to describe it, but as that deficit spending continues inflation will only rise. With inflation oil prices will only skyrocket. This is the type of situation that dug Jimmy Carter's political grave. And China owns our national debt. A million people have recently been evacuated/removed from their homes and we still want profits. Can the oil companies not understand human conscience, but merely profit?
With the passing of Rehnquist much talk has risen about the character of Bush's nominees. Without pinpointing John Roberts, whose presence at the Supreme Court today was admirable, I've wondered if not just presidents, but the justices also can live with the job they've been sent to the bench to do and the work they've actually done. Example, Kennedy appointed White, he was not the justice Kennedy expected. Which conscience does that weigh down? Was Kennedy regretful for his choice or did White regret not being the man the President of the United States nominated him to be? Eisenhower nominated Earl Warren. Yes, I have that right. Earl Warren one of the most activist liberal justices and the most of the chief justices in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. Did Eisenhower sleep well at night knowing that he made a mistake? Did Warren care? For the most part the current justices of the Court, including the late Rehnquist were/are exactly what their nominating presidents expected them to be. The Court, I've heard, pushed anyone a bit toward center, if not a little left, but overall these men and women are comfortable with their conscience. O'Connor wasn't exactly what Reagan had hoped for, but she's consistently a centrist, a swing-vote, and from my perspective very comfortable in her position. Conscience approving.
Three days after Katrina hit New Orleans President Bush flew over in Air Force One. He had been on vacation in Crawford, Texas and was headed toward San Diego for a McCain function. He has admitted that not enough was immediately done for the hurricane victims. How's his conscience? And not just Bush, a lot of people dropped the ball on this one, not just the Bush administration. The National Weather Service, Michael Brown and FEMA, the National Guard, the Governor of Louisiana, the mayors of New Orleans and Biloxi, and a whole lot more. It seems to me that a nation like ours in times like these with terrorist attacks always on our minds and always a possibility would be prepared to evacuate a mass of people in major cities around the country. Why was New Orleans not prepared for such an evacuation? There are a million people without homes, thousands are dead, and collectively the federal government cannot decide whether or not to rebuild the city of New Orleans. I realize that there are several contributing factors to this disaster. FEMA has been nearly dismantled with it's new placement within the bounds of Homeland Security and the Bush administration has a lower than ever approval rating and much to address, but even in excuses conscience takes all.
This really crazy man named Joseph Conrad says that "all a man can betray is his conscience." I believe that. I also believe as someone very close to me who I love dearly once told me when I was stuck between a rock and a hard place that as a human you do what you must so you can sleep at night and so you can live with yourself when you awaken. That is conscience. It's evidently missing in American politics today.