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Don't let cynicism erode your soul

FIFA President Sepp Blatter attends a press conference

FIFA President Sepp Blatter attends a press conference in Jerusalem on May 19, 2015. Blatter is seeking reelection at the FIFA congress in Zurich where six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel. Photo Credit: AP

Interesting week, huh?

Dean Skelos, the former majority leader of the State Senate, is zapped with new charges of landing his son a $100,000 no-show job from a company lobbying for legislation to help keep it afloat.

A passel of international soccer lords is accused by federal officials of accepting tens of millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for votes on tournament locations and marketing and broadcast deals.

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois is accused of evading banking laws to cover up payments he made to hide his reported sexual abuse of a former student.

In truth, the week was not a lot different from many others filled with news of big organizations and their people working the system for personal gain.

Now charges are just charges, and trials will determine innocence or guilt, but each new revelation is framed by the misdeeds of the past. And the steady drip of deceit and corruption erodes our faith and beliefs. That's the real problem.

Our nation was founded on hope and idealism. That's our DNA. Not cynicism. We're hard-wired to believe in fair play. Can-do is not just a philosophy but a way to actually live and get ahead.

For us, cynicism is a learned trait. But we've always been good learners and, alas, we're grasping what's being taught.

What conclusions are we supposed to draw when:

Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are just the latest in a long line of state legislators to face official corruption charges;

Banks and other institutions monkey with the levers of finance to enrich themselves at our expense;

Automobile and parts manufacturers hide defects that kill and injure people;

Engineering reports are doctored to reduce payments to Sandy-battered homeowners;

Nassau officials pay full-time wages to part-time workers who have political ties or other government jobs;

Political parties predetermine elections by drawing district lines that look like Rorschach inkblots;

An Oyster Bay Town official is charged with income tax evasion for not reporting consulting fees from a paving company, Smithtown's highway superintendent faces charges that he directed a worker to falsify paving project documents, a Nassau legislator admits to bilking a law client out of more than $2 million, and a Suffolk sheriff's employee is accused of fraud for claiming he was on the job while actually representing the Conservative Party he chairs at social and civic events.

George Carlin observed that at the heart of any cynic is a disappointed idealist, and it's clear many of us are disappointed. This behavior is just appalling. What's not obvious is how far we've traveled down the road to cynicism. We'll be in a pack of trouble if we all get there.

Cynicism creates distrust, which leads to despair and then indifference. Check out the signposts.

Election turnout numbers are abysmally low. Approval ratings for some elective bodies hover in single digits. Too often the modern response to malfeasance is a tone of resigned disgust, but not anger.

Newsrooms are filled with idealists disguised as professional cynics, it's part of the job description, and society does need some doubters. But not a society filled with cynics. That could go in a lot of directions, all of them bad.

What if we start thinking that what we see is what the world really is, and not just its aberrations? What happens if we use that as carte blanche to do as we please, too?

Cynicism isn't wisdom, it's a deep and dark hole. Beware.


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