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Reader Opinion: Maintaining our ethics

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As we move further from the 20th century, we should extol the knowledge that century entrusted to us about “liberty,” the cornerstone upon which America’s beckoning light of promise was built and for which 245 years of Americans have died defending against tyranny.

Historian Timothy Snyder warns that liberty falls to tyranny when we do not follow the lessons of the past, including to “believe in truth.” One other such warning: “Remember professional ethics.” Nazi Germany would not have murdered millions or destroyed freedom without lawyers and doctors governed by compromising their ethical rules when the tyrant raged.

Those professionals enabled that tyrant to identify himself as Germany, label political opposition as “traitorous,” shred truth telling and obliterate the rule of law governing all but the tyrant and those enablers.

Snyder is too kind, speaking only of “professional ethics,” laying aside others at least governed by binding oaths of allegiance, such as elected representatives, particularly so when bound by a second oath in extraordinary circumstances.

Beyond professionals and public oath takers are “us” and the personal ethics taught to “us” by our mothers and fathers, priests and ministers, coaches and mentors, educators, Sunday school teachers, scout leaders and surely by all of us who ask our maker to “lead us not into temptation, but to deliver us from evil.”

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When the American “us” mislays our ethics, we endorse the rise of tyranny as we slide behind a constitutional malignancy.

The ethics of liberty were gifted to us by the great cloud of our forbearers, men and women who spoke truth to the terrors of the 20th century and before. Liberty, inevitably ensnarled in the suffocating drag of tyrants into their own chaotic darkness, should never be a victim of the turned head, the shielded eye or self-serving excuses fueling tyranny.

John Erickson

Brainerd

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