Stealing is wrong. We all agree with that. In every culture on earth, since the introduction of the concept of ownership, the misappropriation of personal and public property has been considered both morally and legally unfair. We punish that theft of property, whether physical or intellectual. But the theft of ideals, morality, or decency is still carried out in the night by thieves of all backgrounds and left unpunished.

The mere notion that what’s not currently mine needs to be mine seems to justify bad decision making, not only by those with less who may steal to feed their families, but by those who already have more than they could possible need. Three such robberies stand out in my recent personal experience.

Theft by Neglect to Fulfill Responsibility

My appreciation for cycling, top racer, balls-to-the-wall exertion was reinforced last summer when on vacation I witnessed a leg of the “Tour de Utah.” The final stretch of this day-long bicycle race ends on an uphill road where competitors climb a sixteen-degree grade for six or so miles. My car at the time, a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, would not climb this same hill due to engineering failure of the drivetrain. The responsibility for such failure was never admitted or owned up to by this ninety billion dollar a year behemoth manufacturer. I returned the car under the terms of the lease, without compensation for a car that could not get me where I needed and wanted to go on this paved road, which was well-traveled by every other car that attempted the climb.

Witnessing the incredible humans who did ascend this hill at the end of their long and formidable bicycle trek, I was in shock. This feat was beyond impressive. It was nearly unbelievable in terms of the sheer exertion and dedicated use of muscle, breath, and energy. I came to appreciate the Tour de France in a way I had never before. But, as too often happens in this humanity of ours, some bad actors have since distorted this sport indelibly.

Theft by Complicity in Cheating

60 Minutes, the news series that exposes both the good and evil around us, reported recently that an inventor in Budapest has been supplying “electric booster motors” that are deftly hidden in the frame of high-end racing bikes. These motors have small batteries that power the bike axle unnoticably. They “kick on” from the kinetic energy provided by the racer and are often used to maintain speed while going uphill! The inventor admits that he was paid to remain silent by those who deployed his motor unit for an unfair advantage during the world’s greatest biking challenges.

The example and the inspiration of human achievement displayed on the Tour de France was stolen from all of us, not just due to the doping of humans but by mechanically enhanced bicycles. A theft in sport is a robbery of our sense of inherent fairness, the “even playing field” we’ve been taught to expect when any of us enter the ring. Are we teaching our children that cheating is perfectly acceptable?

Theft by Disregarding the Principles of Justice

Finally, I have been physically upset for many months over the nasty discourse from newly elected political representatives. Why? Because I expect more from those we choose to lead us. The very premise of our Constitution mandates a level playing field, a decorum of thought, and respect for a system that inculcates fairness among the men and women we elect to fill the seats required by our representative democracy.

A year ago, the death of a sitting member of the Supreme Court required the system put in place nearly 250 years ago to nominate a new candidate, and if found satisfactory in pedigree of legal training and practice, to approve them via the U.S. Senate. This model has worked again and again over time and become a beacon in the world of jurisprudence, transfer of power, and rule of order among enlightened men and women.

Instead of performing their constitutionally mandated duty, the Republican party committed a heinous crime. Their victims? The American people, regardless of party affiliation. They defamed and undermined the system of governance we elected them (and pay them) to protect. They bent the rules well past the guidepost of fairness. This theft now begs the question for the opposition party: Do they play by the same newly-formed rules, potentially choking this well-designed system that has functioned for so long?

Are These the New Rules of American Life?

These three thefts have left me distraught. They undermine what I know to be right and wrong. I now must long for human decency. I must long for meaningful fairness in all institutions that profess such decency and fairness as their inherent responsibility. We, their constituents, their employers, their investors, their supporters, must demand from ourselves and from others the fairness that, in principle, undergirds the fabric of our social and government institutions.

Do we put the disguised motor in our own bike to compete? Do we make cars that cannot travel the roads and deny their users compensation for our failure? Do we disgrace our principles of governance by ignoring the historical tenets of the transfer of power within the Supreme Court?

One thing is for certain: we must speak up. We must not be complicit, through our participation or our neglect, in these thefts of decency.