When I headed for an institution of higher learning (University of Alberta) in 1982, I did so with strong values bread from mom and dad along with some confidence derived from scholastic and athletic successes. It was a time of great anticipation having never lived in a big city such as Edmonton which would become the home of my Alma Mater. There was uncertainty in my discipline of choice but I knew that school was the best place for me during a difficult economic era. There were no jobs in Kamloops. I was lucky to acquire door to door sales work between 10th and 11th grade along with a carpenter’s helper post in the summer of 1981 to fill my summers. I knew the economic landscape even at that age.
We were taught the hard work and merit synonymous with success. We believed that everyone had an equal shot. We believed that that law looked upon everyone equally and fairly. However; we hadn’t been taught free enterprise because the capitalist system wasn’t laid out in an educational system biased with educators whom had for the most part not participated in commerce. Yet still there was a lurking sense that we’d come to know what teachers didn’t know.
With youth comes a naivety that evil mustn’t lurk readily. It shouldn’t hide right out in the open. Youth brings a healthy sense of hope that what’s right can be actualized. There is a sense that the newness of perspective can impactfully infiltrate evil and excoriate its effect. Never in my wildest nightmare would I have imagined while sitting in Anthropology class in 1985 that the likes of a Donald Trump would become President of the United States of America. I would have believed that the good people of the U.S. would be able to see through his self centred deviousness. I would expect that void from the kinds of “values” which were taught to me by my mother (school teacher) and father (metallurgist) would be vetted. I would have thought that my first world neighbour would have been savvy enough through a well rounded education system to be able to comprehend through its people the importance of “values” when appointing a political leader.
It’s been four years of witnessing unsurprisingly abysmal leadership in the context of this values void. There was the intransigence of congress, the withholding of aid to Ukraine for a political favour, there was the governing by tweet, the criminal indictments of insider associates, the denial of COVID-19 and the delay in implementing protocols and grounding of planes. There was the revolving door of political appointees, and the outright lying. There was insincerity in challenging problems vigorously. Despite claims by women of sexual assault and contractors representing unpaid work, business bankruptcies, and apparent tax fraud….Americans put it all aside in the nomination of Trump. It’s simply mind blowing.
We’re now nearing the final hours and there is this last item of business for Donald Trump. This is his “pardon list”. You see….you have this system of justice where lawyers go to school for seven years post secondary in order to sharpen their minds for “judgment day” in order to be positioned to deliver justice. Their $500 / hr fee in their minds justifies such esteemed training. Then comes along a deceitful boor with a sordid track record in advance of departing the “White House” (it’s still not certain if he won’t be dragged out kicking and screaming) signing his name to “pardoning” criminal records from those deemed law breakers with past associations to he himself thereby undoing a crafty justice system and whatever credibility it purports.
What is a generation of high school graduates in 2021 to think? Can they in good conscience believe that the values of hard work and merit will serve them well in the context of witnessing such deviousness? When a government can’t balance its budget, what should a student care about paying his / her student loan? If a countries currency is at the breaking point of collapse through irresponsible spending, why should a student save? If a people can’t elect competence, why should a student aspire toward serving his neighbour? If the year 2020 hasn’t spawned a conversation around “value” – what’s it going to take?