When I grew up in the 40’, 50’ and 60’s, the widely accepted values assumed of leaders were truthfulness, integrity, honesty, a reasonable level of humility, and compassion. Certainly, there were outliers, but they were truly outliers and quickly descended into obscurity and irrelevancy.
People, and especially politicians, were looked down upon for their statements that were clearly false, misleading, or highly suspect. Politicians who demonstrated significant lapses in integrity were generally shunned or worse. Politicians who were shown to be dishonest were often sent to jail or at least they disappeared from meaningful influence. Politicians who lacked basic humility and displayed a boastful and braggart style were considered out of touch with the voting public.
Those who showed little compassion or connection with their fellow Americans, especially those Americans who had fallen on hard times, were not rewarded with election victories. But those leaders who showed the greatest compassion for those who were struggling were the most admired and elected.
Now we face an entirely different set of values, not of everyone in our country, not even a majority, but of a significant minority, disillusioned and fearful of their future, who seem to have a very different set of values.
These are mostly not bad or evil people, but for one reason or another they feel left behind. They feel that economically they have gotten the short end of the stick and they see changes in our society and culture that they don’t like. And their perception is not entirely without legitimacy. Their instincts are to draw inward, to become fearful and protective of what’s theirs.
As a result, they resent OTHERS – those of different skin colors, social classes, sexual orientations, political, ideological and religious beliefs. They care less about the persecuted of the world, less about those who are of different ethnic backgrounds and from different countries. They are much more concerned about someone who gets something they “don’t deserve”, then about someone who does not get what they truly “need” to survive and prosper.
This basket of grievances has set the stage for an unfortunate set of political initiatives based on less than our finest values. They want to make “America First”, which implies that they think that they are better than the rest of the peoples of the world and deserve to be treated and rewarded better. If this is the case, we need to earn that position by our international behavior, not impose it by intimidation and bullying.
Many want to keep out those asylum seekers who are, for the most part, fleeing real and terrorizing violence from gangs in the northern triangle countries of Central America.
And many have accepted a VERY distorted reality, based on a truly astonishing denial and spinning of objective facts, augmented by a rich universe of conspiracy theories, by our President and media outlets in his service – a phenomenon not seen (to anywhere near this degree) for over a century.
And that gets us to humility.
Now no one expects anyone who gets to be President of the United States to have a small ego, but, OMG, can anyone imagine anyone more braggadocios and narcissistic than our current President? I guess he believes that signifies strength, but for me it just signifies a guy with a gigantic chip on his shoulder.
Almost daily I ask myself how did we get to these values, by so many of our citizens, to elect and defend this President. I am skeptical that impeachment makes sense at this juncture, but I hope that by means of the 2020 election, we can restore the values I believed had become the bedrock of this nation.
Again, may our better angels prevail. We need to help them prevail.