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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Other Views

Those ‘few bad apples’ among us

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Part of the American charm is the Pollyannaish instinct to protect the national image by dismissing shocking public scandals as the mischief of "a few bad apples," with the added self-reassurance they don’t represent American values.

Unhappily, although few in numbers, the "few bad apples" usually involve people with power over our lives, or of immense wealth, or who control public safety or have been elevated to status as models in society to be emulated.

Their acts can paralyze a nation into shock, fear, revulsion, disgust, anger, resentment, and even lead to national debates and changes in laws.

The "few bad apples" blamed by President Bush for the Iraqi prisoner abuse ultimately will be joined by higher officers. Meanwhile, the "few bad apples" have created a storm of resentment in the Islamic world, tied Congress in knots, threatened President Bush’s standing at home, preoccupied Pentagon brass with investigations and inflamed public suspicions of cover-ups by higher-ups.

Worse, "a few bad apples" in the Bush administration with zealous political ambitions who willingly fabricated an imaginary military threat drove America into war at high costs in lives and national treasure.

Who but "a few bad apples" among the nation’s corporate executives are on trial for cooking company books and outright fraud, replicates of Enron-type corruption that ruins the well being of employees and fortunes of investors.

The "few bad apples" in American prisons and jails made the penal system into the world’s most populous (more than 2 million inmates) with the world’s highest incarceration rate (more than 700 persons per 100,000 population).

"Bad apples" among U.S. drivers cause more traffic deaths than anywhere in the world. Guns in the hands of "a few bad apples" also give the United States the world’s highest homicide toll.

The "few bad apples" in Richard Nixon’s White House brought down his presidency in disgrace.

U.S. journalism’s "few bad apples" with their fabricated stories in otherwise respected newspapers such as USA TODAY, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The New York Times have left the entire industry with a black eye and public suspicions about media credibility.

The Catholic Church’s "few bad apples" in the priesthood permanently stained the church, destroyed careers of lofty prelates caught in cover-ups and drained needy diocesan treasuries of tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits.

It required only two teenage "bad apples" at Columbine High with a few guns and a couple of "bad apples" in Oklahoma City with fertilizer-based explosives to create shock waves around the world and carnage unimaginable to even the most hardened police.

The more than 230 million Americans who live and work their days honorably and virtuously indeed represent the values of the world’s most envied society.

However, the rotten nature of "bad apples" should never be casually dismissed nor dealt with lightly.

Remember, even the fittest body is no match for the tiniest cancer if allowed to spread.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.