In my multi-engine airplane there are two of everything. Two engines require much duplication of controls and gauges, but why two compasses? It’s because you’ll catch one of them lying to you sometimes. Because of other attractions and distractions, a generally dependable magnetic compass will sometimes look you squarely in the eye and lie about which way is north. When that happens—when your compass gets out of kilter—you have to ground your airplane, reswing the compass, readjust it, until it tells the truth again.

A man’s conscience is subject to similar deflection, Or a nation’s conscience. And as surely as a bad compass, pointing the wrong way, can lead you into trouble, so can a cockeyed conscience.

Beside your bed is an alarm clock. A dependable, trusted instrument capable of awakening you at six o’clock in the morning—unless you forget to wind it. There is another way you can cancel out its effectiveness—ignore it. If morning after morning you are awakened by the alarm but refuse to heed it, eventually it will cease to alert you. It may not even awaken you. Ignore it long enough and you’ll cease to hear it. In this case the clock is still there and still accurate and still ringing, but you don’t let it bother you anymore.

A man can deafen himself to his conscience the same way. A nation can do the same.

The Meter Is Bent

I find the struggle with my own compass, my own alarm clock, my own conscience, is a constant one.

Man comes into the world equipped with a brain and a conscience. Each must be educated to work properly or it is unreliable.

Manhattan’s mad bomber seemed such a delightful fellow. He liked flowers, had a cheerful disposition, made a pleasing appearance. But somewhere back there the built-in gauge that tells ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.