"Not to have worked that out for myself; not, given my education,
to have read books, magazines, and newspapers of various viewpoints; not
to have tried to see through the whole apparatus of mystification -- was
already criminal. At this initial stage my guilt was as grave as, at the
end, my work for Hitler. For being in a position to know and
nevertheless shunning knowledge creates direct responsibility for the
consequences -- from the very beginning."
--Albert Speer, "Inside the Third Reich"
Today, our society has perfected the popular board game that so many
of us played as children. Then we played it with our parents, our
teachers and our friends. Now we play it with our attorneys,
politicians, the shopkeeper down the road -- and even our Aunt Harriet
-- if she is up for a rattle or two of the dice and the chance
advancement of our fortunes at the expense of another.
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Then, "the game" was a convincing story for mom or dad wrapped around
the baseball that had found its way through our neighbor's broken
window. Or it was all the "reasons" our homework assignment wasn't ready
to be handed in to Miss Sternly -- on the day of judgment. Today, the
game is played in many variations, depending upon who we are at the
moment. As parents, it might be explaining to 6-year-old Sally why Daddy
can't come to her school concert like he promised. Mommy might remember
her childhood dance steps when she reneges at the last minute on that
promised PTA or church project. Or it may be explaining to our boss why
our part of a promised client project just isn't ready in time.
It might even be as gruesome as inventing plausible excuses for why
so many of the tires our company manufactures have self-destructed,
costing the lives of those who trusted us to get them safely from the
soccer game to the team celebration at the Burger Haven. Maybe our job
is as important as wrapping a story around our SUV, to explain why the
tires we chose mean that Mom, Dad, and little Johnny are never coming
home from the soccer game again.
The Blame Game -- that bestseller from our youth -- is alive and well
today in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Winning and
losing is so important to us that we have even formed professional
teams: attorneys, judges, congressmen, presidents, corporate executives
and spin-doctors. Like our homework assignment that somehow never made
it to class, the truth has a difficult task weaving its way through the
maze of stories we tell around the evidence. The stakes are high: our
money or our life, as Jack Benny so often pondered on stage.
In fact -- as Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and later his minister
of armaments and war production observed from Spandau prison, where he
had 21 years to reflect on his career -- bad decisions build upon one
another. Somewhere in Firestone, a factory worker had doubts about the
tire he handled, or had questions about a change in the production
process that seemed to behave "differently." A quality engineer had
unanswered questions that she never pursued. A sales executive heard
stories from his salesmen. Somewhere in Ford, alarm bells went off over
the number of Explorer accidents. The truth was there -- lurking in the
shadows -- but finding the truth wasn't part of our job description that
day. So we continued to buy Firestone tires. We continued to inflate
them for a soft ride. And we assured everyone who asked that there was
no evidence of any wrongdoing.
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Yet the sad truth is, any one of dozens of people -- people not so
very different from you or I -- could have acted on their suspicions and
in so doing shed light on the truth huddled in the shadows at Firestone
and Ford. But telling the truth wasn't part of our culture, it wasn't in
our job description, and because it wasn't, other families that went to
soccer practice will never be coming home again.
It's not our fault, of course. The schools didn't teach us. Our
parents let us get away with it. The Sunday School teacher was absent
the day we were to learn what James, Jesus' half-brother, meant when he
wrote, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to
him it is sin" (James 4:17). Our society is a living reflection of each
one of us as unique individuals. Our soul as a nation can be no better
-- and is no worse -- than the soul behind the eyes that stare back at
us in the morning mirror. Albert Speer didn't set out to murder Jews.
Firestone didn't set out to manufacture a tire that would in its failure
kill innocent families traveling on their vacation. And Ford didn't
design a vehicle intended for one-way trips to the mortuary. And yet in
each case, the decisions they made, one piled on top of another, led
them down that road.
So how's the view from where you stand in the morning? How far down
the road have you traveled in this life, building one bad decision upon
another? How many bad decisions have you made today? For those of us who
can't change, the good news is that God is still looking for people just
like us -- people who want to change -- but can't seem to manage it. He
has great plans for you; but they involve a partnership. You work on the
outside, while He works on the inside. A nation -- and an individual --
that accepts His leadership finds that the impossible happens, the road
they're traveling has gradually changed direction, and the view they see
in the morning mirror looks pretty good.