Think of this as Volume 11, Number 22 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
Misplaced loyalty sees this word as a two-way street. I'm loyal to you, you're loyal to me.
In fact it's a circle. Loyalty always flows upward. When you're on the top of the tower, that means it flows to what's really most important to everyone else, the customers and owners in the case of a corporation, the voters and the system in the case of a politician. That loyalty then showers down like rain and blesses everyone below, watering the roots, raising everyone up.
In a corporate loyalty chain the result is higher profit, higher sales, and goodwill. Think Warren Buffett (left). His loyalty is to his shareholders, and he teaches that their loyalty is to customers. As a result his annual meetings are a joy, a Buffettstock. Like IBM meetings in the 1920s, Coca-Cola meetings in the 1950s, or Microsoft meetings in the 1990s. When companies are run right this is what all their meetings should be -- celebrations.
In the case of political loyalty the result is much the same -- peace, prosperity, power, and the respect of other nations. All the good feelings one has when one thinks of the word patriotism.
In both politics and corporate life we are supposed to have figures who keep an eye on the powerful and make sure the proper loyalty is maintained, that loyalty to people does not replace loyalty to the system. Prosecutors and courts owe their loyalty to the law, nothing else. They have no loyalty to the people at the top, even when those people are in high office. And when those in the chain of command are questioned by such people, their loyalty too must flow to the system, not to their bosses. Otherwise what's the difference between a political or corporate hierarchy and a Mafia crime family? None.
The words of our national anthem, unfortunately, don't teach this lesson. They're taught better by songs like Norah Jones' American Anthem:
Let them say of me
I was one who believed in
sharing the blessings I received.
Let me know in my heart when my days are through,
America I gave my best to you.
It is in short-circuiting this system that this generation of politicians and corporate leaders have led the United States onto the rocks. They have destroyed our nation's credibility, they have destroyed the credibility of our markets, they have destroyed the credibility of our dollar. That won't be returned to us, automatically, by the results of any election. In a sense we're all like James Frey, whose A Million Little Pieces was shown to be fiction although it was billed as autobiography. (Also see Miller, Judy and Blair, Jayson.)
Lies have been told in our name, and believed. People have been murdered. We have betrayed the trust the world gave to us. Our collective credibility is zero.
The only way to rebuild is from the ground up, brick by brick.