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Salena Zito


Needed: Leaders With Moral Compass

by Salena Zito
 

Sometimes the view of American society through the prism of social media and cable news is incredibly disheartening.

We shrug off – or, worse, defend – cheaters in professional sports; we not only accept but often praise awful jobs reports; our children and grandchildren have dropped their faith in God at an alarming clip.

Does the football-deflating decision of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady really reflect what we are as a society? Do we all just game the system, whatever system we're in, to get ahead?

Have we become a nation of wusses and cheaters?

And how is it that no one raised alarms about the downward revision of the nation's March employment numbers, which showed we created only 86,000 jobs; that's the worst job-creation number in years.

Is that as good as it gets? Is this why partisan progressive politicians are pushing income equality and a higher minimum wage? They can't figure out how to adjust to the new economy, to fix the problem of a disappearing middle class that they created through government entitlements and over-regulation. Rather than admit all that, however, their faux populist rhetoric makes business out to be the bad guy.

The loss of God in young Americans' lives is astounding; last week a new study by the Pew Research Center showed a sharp rise of those who are not religious – a staggering 25 percent, in contrast to 11 percent of baby boomers and 7 percent of the generation born between 1928 and 1945.

On the surface we look like a country with a tired soul, tolerant of poor sportsmanship and mediocrity, completely lacking the wherewithal needed to maintain the faith that our families passed down.

Where are the leaders who take on corruption, find ways to rebuild our communities' economic cornerstones, and pass on the tradition of faith in our society?

Political campaign signs sprout at the intersections of this once-thriving steel town, now struggling to hold on to its heritage of Friday-night football games, hard work and community service.

At least two of the candidates are in it for the good of their community – a steelworker who wears a flannel shirt (authentically, not ironically) and a former state police trooper. Both are bucking the odds to run for office in a county controlled by machine politics for generations.

Tony Guy spent 25 years as a Pennsylvania trooper; police work wasn't what he dreamed of while growing up, but through hard work and dedication it became his calling. He is passionate about his run for Beaver County sheriff because he loves his community and law enforcement.

"There is a lack of respect and confidence in this community in the sheriff's office because of the politics that have controlled law enforcement for far too long," he said. He believes politics influences the office's hiring process, its management, and everything else involved with keeping law and order in this Western Pennsylvania town.

"It's like what we have in society in general right now," such as the growing nationwide backlash against alleged police misconduct, he said. "We have to start locally to change the direction of this country from the bottom up."

If the 54-year-old novice politician wins his primary Tuesday, he would face a career politician who's made newspaper headlines in recent years for his temper, including being arrested for (but acquitted of) threatening to cut off a political campaign worker's hands.

"I mean, that's not who we are – that's the stuff you see on television. Our community deserves better," Guy said, heading from one small campaign stop to another.

Tim Stemf, 34, is a steelworker in an era in which the mills no longer employ seven out of 10 townspeople; his town has shrunk to half the size it was when he was born. He is running for county recorder of deeds, he said, because he too feels it is time to shake up the establishment machine.

Both men said, in separate interviews, that they are tired of America accepting or heroizing people who cheat to get ahead, who seemingly lack moral compasses.

"Sometimes you have to step up," said Guy.

Real leaders are out there. We just need them to take Guy's advice.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (szito@tribweb.com).


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