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Pain is the Prompt

Pain is the Prompt


It’s been a long time, I know.

It pains me that I haven’t written, that I haven’t been able to muster the energy, focus, or heart to put pen to paper and express anything, but I do so now precisely because of the pain. As we all know, life is unpredictable and can be painful, sometimes dishing up as much as we can handle. I suffered a spate of heartbreaking losses in the past year and a half and while those were very painful, the feeling prompting me to write now is the pain of witnessing and living through the moral decay and utter breakdown of our society.

I still remember the excitement I felt as a kid in 1976 celebrating our nation’s bicentennial. We played games in the neighborhood, lit fireworks in the street after dark, and scarfed ice cream flavors like Valley Forge Fudge at the iconic Baskin Robbins store. We felt pride at living in a free nation that had lasted for 200 years. It was joyous and exhilarating. We lived in mostly happy communities, hopeful about the future. I’m not claiming it was some halcyon age, just that we weren’t as sharply divided as we are today.

I know humans have a great tendency to reflect on years past through rose-colored lenses, but that fact notwithstanding, there exists zero doubt that the tenor of our society has changed in the past couple of decades. Nowadays people behave in ways hitherto unthinkable so, maybe it’s time we attempt to redirect our society back to a more decent sociocultural space.

My father died quite unexpectedly on January 3, 2023, and not in the c-shot sort of way unexpected. I think he was heartbroken because he had had a successful heart procedure in December and wasn’t recovering the way he’d expected. He was almost 85 but looking forward to getting back to lifting weights, working out, and hiking, some of his beloved activities. I know that sounds weird for an 85-year-old but it’s not uncommon where we live or in our family – he was a fit man and doing all of that into his early 80s. So, when I got the call to go to the hospital, I thought I was going to see him and comfort him after a heart attack, but he was already gone. It was quite a jarring beginning to the year. 

But it didn’t end there. Over the coming months, several other beloved long-term friends passed on as well. It felt like a new blow every month or two and given what we’d all been through in the last few years it took time to process and digest so I focused my energy on leading the Health Freedom Defense Fund, our lawsuits, and our clients.  

And that brings me to the pain of it all.

I live in a small community in Idaho and have for most of my life. It’s always been a fairly tight-knit community. If someone suffers a catastrophic accident like dying in an avalanche or car accident or develops cancer, the community rallies around that individual or the family to support them by raising funds, helping out, and much more. This had always been the case – until the Covid crisis.

Before Covid, our public servants generally tried to do the right thing by others, but when Covid mania began, the moral compass of almost all of them seemed drowned beneath the deluge of fear being poured upon us daily and they instead enacted a perfect example of obedience to authority in real time.

Despite being informed by countless members of our community that masks do nothing, that Covid dangers are being grossly exaggerated, that social distancing and all this other nonsense was just that – nonsense, they diligently (blindly?) genuflected to the utterances of Anthony Fauci and the CDC no matter how illogical, contradictory, or lacking in scientific basis. Most troubling of all, some of these so-called public servants are apparently still ignorant of their mistakes and gullibility as they are still expressing a desire to possess and wield emergency powers for the next “crisis” despite all their failings and all the damage they caused. I wonder what leads them to believe they’ll do a better job next time when they were so lacking in critical thinking this last time.

The whole Covid experience has been hard enough to swallow, but what’s happened in the last month is what’s brought real pain to me. The Idaho primaries took place on May 21 and some of the races were hotly contested on both the Republican and Democrat side of things. While I have no problem with people arguing the issues or debating differences of opinion, I do have a problem with people spreading lies, people anonymously writing mendacious smear pieces and then distributing them, and politicians saying anything they believe an audience wants to hear only to say the exact opposite to another audience a week later, in order to gain votes. All these things happened here in my little community in the last couple of weeks.

I know this kind of stuff happens in bigger cities, bigger states, and on a national level much more than I’d likely care to know or understand, but when it happens in a small community, that has always been a refuge from the world out there, it hurts much more. Learning that someone I had once believed to be an upright member of our community allegedly wrote the anonymous smear piece riddled with malevolent lie after lie, and disseminated it in order to get a person elected, just boggles my mind. Knowing that another person distributed information that was seemingly mistakenly misinterpreted yet feels no compunction to correct the record – which on its own suggests the initial distribution was deliberate – is something I can’t comprehend.

What kind of people behave in such deceitful, immoral, unethical ways? Had I inadvertently disseminated incorrect information about someone, I would not be able to sleep unless I corrected the record with all of those to whom I’d first sent the information. But it seems that in this brave new world we inhabit, anything goes – at least for some. It’s open warfare, absent the shots. I guess it’s just as the saying goes – all is fair in war – but for me, this rationale is simply unconscionable.

If there is a silver lining within this situation, it’s that witnessing this kind of moral decay close up has galvanized me to not only express my utter heartbreak at this sorry state of affairs but also to state why I will never be silent about this kind of behavior and why I hope every person I know will join me in publicly condemning it. If we don’t call out, expose, and condemn those who lie, smear, and deceive, the behavior will not only persist, it will flourish. We don’t stop devious acts by turning a blind eye to them and the moral relativism that plagues our society will only expedite our decline. While we all have our own perspectives, some truths are simply not relative – cheating and deceiving are wrong no matter how we justify them. And a community that condones immoral behavior will ultimately collapse. 

At the end of the day, all we really have is who we are in our relationships in our actions, and in our hearts. For me, the guiding principles in life are doing the right thing to the best of my ability in all situations and doing my best at whatever I may undertake. As a human, I sometimes miss the mark, and that’s just part of life, but these failures are an opportunity to hone ourselves into the best people we can be. The real challenge is how we react when we do err so, for me the next guiding principle instructs me to own my shortcomings, apologize for them, and make amends whenever possible.

I think the only way for us to persist and thrive in this contentious and unethical world, is to embrace a moral life. We must endeavor each and every day to act from a place of good, to be guided by morals and ethics, and to answer to a higher purpose. This does not mean avoiding conflict or rolling over in order to be polite; rather it demands that we muster the courage to confront others when we witness them behaving in unethical and immoral ways. It means making our voices heard, even if we might get uninvited from parties or excluded from certain social circles. It means standing up and being accountable for what we say and do and how we live our lives.

We can’t remain silent about all the wrongs we see in the world – and I don’t mean disagreements about policy or politics, I mean actions that are clearly wrong like theft and other crimes, lying and deceit, corruption, and general dishonesty. While we may not have a voice on the larger national or global scale, we do have influence in our local communities and towns – where it matters most. Of course, this is uncomfortable if not downright frightening for us because our communities are where we are known and where our words and actions have the most potential to impact our daily lives.

Trust me, I know this firsthand as I have lost many friendships since speaking out about the undeniable dangers of vaccines and the Covid debacle. But taking these stands and living in integrity with what I KNOW to be true has given me an inner strength I never realized I had while eviscerating any fear regarding what people think of me because when we come from a place of integrity while demanding honesty and decency, it’s empowering for us and disarming for others at the same time.

Let’s take some inspiration from the American Revolution when a minority stood for what is right, just, and fair – even though that stance risked severing friendships and relationships. Those brave souls gifted us a better system than ever before but that system demands moral fiber which means not only the willingness to act morally in our own lives but to hold others accountable as well. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant. So, expose the malefactors. Start a local email list and share the truth, expose mendacity, expose corruption. Talk about the stories and scandals the local news media does not cover. 

Why should we do this? It’s quite simple; because the cost of not handling our affairs in this manner means the destruction of the social fabric of our society, the end of our communities, and the end of our country. It means the end of essentially everything that we hold dear. It means that those who live by Machiavellian means will win the day. And that’s not something I want for myself, my family, or future generations. Righting this ship takes a commitment by us all to do the right thing, to expect the same of others, and to hold one another accountable when we fail. Anything short of this will allow the sickening rot infecting our country to thrive and as a result, any dream of a decent society will surely perish. 

To be fair, all this talk of taking a stand is not only about self-sacrifice; there are selfish reasons to embrace this path as well, because living a moral life simply feels good. Being honest, fair, and upright gives a sense of well-being, calmness, joy, inspiration, hope, and meaning to our lives. Apologizing for our mistakes and failures lightens our hearts and teaches others the path of humility and responsibility for our actions. This way makes one’s heart swell and spirit sing. It makes one feel that this battle between good and evil, truth and deception, honor and immorality, decency and destruction will end in triumph for those of us who want what’s good.

What would happen if we all vowed to adopt an honor code to guide every moment in our lives? What if we vowed to speak the truth, to act ethically, and to hold others accountable when they violate the codes of society? What if we also vowed to pursue this ethos in a decent, respectful manner, seeking to expose dishonesty not to shame and humiliate the offenders, but to strengthen the social fabric of our communities? Wouldn’t we make clear that this conduct will be given no quarter in our communities?

We could right this ship. We could, indeed, one person at a time.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Leslie Manookian

    Leslie Manookian, MBA, M.L.C. Hom is president and founder of Health Freedom Defense Fund. She is a former successful Wall Street business executive. Her career in finance took her from New York to London with Goldman Sachs. She later became Director of Alliance Capital in London running their European Growth Portfolio Management and Research businesses.

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