By Robert Bauer JD
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Shakespeare play in Washington DC. People can say what they want to about the live theater, but Shakespeare plays have a timeless quality, appealing to audiences in varied times and places. They always seem to apply to the world at the time. Part of their appeal is their examination of the human nature, which also does not seem to change over time.
This particular play, “Measure to Measure” was a dark comedy that leads a compelling discussion about the corrupting nature of power. The irony of this play was its playing in Washington DC, during the battle over the Continuing Resolution (CR) in Congress. In this ongoing battle, one political party is trying to bully the other to not fund a law that was upheld as relevant by the US Supreme Court and the other party is whining that the other is not playing fair. Each political party goes off, points the finger, and cries that the other does not want to play with them. It just never ceases to amaze me how power so easily acts as a narcotic, in the hands of some people.
The play revolves around an accused fornicator who was ordered to be put to death for having sex outside of wedlock. He was condemned by a person that seemed so anal retentive and committed to his own interpretation of the law that he saw no way to offer a reprieve for the person that was accused. The official is approached by the man’s sister who was pleading for her brother’s life. The power afflicted official, consumed by lust, soon offers her a way to earn the reprieve for her brother- that was to have this sister, a novice nun; to give into his demands reflected the same act that her brother was being sentence for, sex for a pardon. After being physically assaulted by the official, she then turns and asked “Who do I report this to?”
The one official that was imposing the enforcement of the sex law was now using the act of sex out of wedlock as a means for this pleading sister to save her brother. When her brother committed the act, it was a crime, if she committed the act it was charity.
Life is not much different than Shakespeare’s play. We encounter those that have learned to be great leaders and try to measure the use of power; some get intoxicated with power and begin to abuse it, affecting many others lives and livelihoods. When someone in authority abuses their power, who do you report it too?
When I started writing this article, I was going to relate it to the power structure in public safety operations and how it seems that the corruption in leadership leaves many without recourse of resolutions. Yet it seems that the corrupting nature of power is systemic to human nature. As I mentioned earlier, currently there is a battle in Congress over the funding of the government. So to write about the corruption of power in the public safety community seems almost moot at this time, as we witness the complete meltdown of leadership in our nation’s capital amongst our elected officials. Elected officials are acting like petulant little children that are not getting their way. The lives and opinions of their constituents do not seem to matter; this lack of leadership is an exercise in ego stroking. We are witnessing the corruptible nature of power being played out before our very eyes.
Each side metaphorically represents the bully in the playground; they stick their chest out and beat it with the hopes of intimidating someone, while the other side tries to push their chest out a little more and yell just a tad bit louder. Both tuck their proverbial tales between their legs when they do not get their way and go whining to the public that problems are all due to the other’s unreasonable position.
Power has the ability to corrupt even the most honest of people. It is a hallucinogenic drug that provides the user with the ability to see things that do not exist and offer delusional thoughts of powers and abilities that do not resemble true leadership.
Who do I report this to? I can call the switchboards at the White House or at the US Capital, but no one is really taking your calls; no one wants to listen. Everyone has a boss that understands that the actions of some can impact them greatly; for an elected official, their boss is the voting public.
To say there is no answer to the question on the table would be a cop out, a way to enable those that are suffering from power overindulgence. Even elected officials must eventually answer to someone. As we can see in the Shakespeare’s play, the little weasel who was power drunk in the end had to answer to someone. He was eventually outted, the condemned brother was saved; the virtue of the sister was preserved; and all ended well.
Will all end well in real life? Who do I report my dissatisfaction to? Convince yourself that certain behavior is not acceptable, and look for the right resource to take it to….You have the same power as others; use it wisely. You may have to try repeatedly and use different routes, but keep trying. There is eventually someone willing to listen to your story and take action.