Larry Gebhardt color

Larry Gebhardt

Are the principles of law and order, principles of citizenship, civic responsibility and mutual respect being distorted in Idaho?

Idaho conservative Republican extremists are revitalizing a principle from hippie days of the last century. Some old enough will remember situational ethics — a philosophy of living that condoned doing anything that makes one feel good at the time even if forbidden, like smoking pot or not wearing seatbelts. Its cousin, moral relativism, is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint, so conduct has no absolute moral right and wrongs. Some libertarians buy these concepts.

Lt. Gov. McGeachin and her spear-carriers like Barbara Ehardt, Heather Scott, Chad Christensen, Ammon Bundy and the Idaho Freedom Foundation preach a gospel that says obey Idaho laws, regulations, orders and generally accepted customs only if you feel like it. This gospel advises that rights (aka freedoms) are morally more important than responsibilities as a citizen. When authority figures like McGeachin preach a version of anarchy as nonrecognition of authority then Idaho businesses are empowered to give the finger to non-pharmaceutical interventions like separation, masks and stay-home orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus. Some liberty-lovers move into bullying to force their moral views on other citizens, like badgering law enforcement staff at their homes.

A downside of McGeachin’s situational leadership doctrine is that it role-models aberrant vigilante behaviors by juvenile minds.

The kid took his gun taken to school because Chad said he has rights. Hate language is OK because the president called us good people. The game poacher’s friends say Fish and Game is too restrictive. The employee takes some product or cash because others do it. The new landowner gates off roads and trails to block public land access because extremists are doing it. It’s OK to bully the transgender girl because she’s now banned from athletics. My rights, right?

The Idaho Workforce Development final report lists competencies for career readiness including citizenship/civic responsibility and work ethic. Related principles learned are often reinforced or ignored because of role modeling. The responsibility list includes: Think critically about complex issues and evaluate information about issues of public consequence; demonstrate knowledge of institutions and processes of government and political systems; possess behaviors, attitudes and understanding needed to be a knowledgeable, active and engaged member of a community. The work ethic list includes: Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, work productively with others, and understand the impact of nonverbal communication. The individual demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly, and is able to learn from their mistakes.

Religious principles apply to good citizenship, law and order as well. The principle of reciprocity is in scripture as the Golden Rule and Ten Commandments. Treat others as you want to be treated; don’t steal my stuff and I won’t steal yours; don’t lie about me and I won’t gossip about you. I wear my mask to protect you; you wear your mask to protect me. I understand my political correctness not as a being a snowflake but in considering your feelings and being polite.

Principles of citizenship, civic responsibility, work ethic and reciprocity make for better business and better society in part because they are predictable and consistent. Standard procedures are the current best ways of doing things. Laws and orders are the standard practices of society. Authority figures can follow an integrity model to design standards by working hard to discern right things to do but open to fresh information to improve practices. There are safe and proper ways to make changes that balance personal liberties with common good. We don’t need vigilantes.

Idaho businesses need trustworthy employees who respect company policies and standard practices. I wouldn’t hire a person who preached McGeachin’s doctrine of non-recognition of authority. We don’t need ‘em in government either.

Larry Gebhardt of Pocatello is a retired Navy submarine captain who now works as a manufacturing industry consultant.