A short time ago I wrote a piece wondering what had brought us to a place in our political process where the two candidates for President were so ill thought of or so disrespected.
No matter who won, the losing side was going to be living in abject fear of the actions and consequences of that administration. So I again started to think about the state of America’s psyche and, to some extent, the state of that of the western world.
In that previous article, I wrote about how it is that we have gotten to the place where, if we are on the losing side, we grant ourselves the licence to not only object, but to demonstrate, even riot, and cry foul at the top of our lungs.
I saw the same thing after the Brexit vote in Great Britain. Like here, the losing side decided that just losing and working for another opportunity within the law was unacceptable, we should overthrow the results and do it again, presumably until the ignorant majority sees the light and agrees with “us”.
We seem to have arrived at the point today where those that disagree with “us” are mostly ignorant and if they would only see the inherent wisdom of “our” point of view, they would become enlightened and agree with “us”. The idea of compromise for both major things like an election or Brexit vote, and for more minor things like legislation seems to be summarized by the view that compromise means “you give up your views and agree with mine”.
Hand in hand with that, it seems that we have become too willing to compromise our moral standards for the practical end. As I mentioned above, the polls indicated that each candidate in our recent election, as well as congress in general, are held in low esteem. If I assume that the lack of esteem and respect for our candidates and elected officials is due to our evaluation of their performance while in office, their behavior in their personal lives, their lack of integrity, and/or respect for those they serve, I am left to wonder why we support and re-elect them.
Of course we do so for one of two reasons. First we support them because we fear the alternative. For instance, I cannot count how many times I heard the rationale of “I have to vote for (fill in the blank) because I cannot stand the thought of his or her opponent sitting in office”. So in this instance we vote for one candidate merely to block another, rather than working to find a candidate in whom we can believe and respect.
Second, it seems to me that we often support a candidate solely because that candidate will follow the party line, no matter how much he or she has morals or business practices that we may abhor.
I recall an interview many years ago with a leading feminist. During the interview she was asked about a senator and about the well-known reputation this senator had for philandering. The feminist replied something to the effect that while his philandering was well-known and personally despised, he was, nevertheless their senator and voted as they wanted on issues that mattered to them. I am reminded of a politician back in the 1880s who said “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought”. It seems for both sides of the aisle today nothing has changed. We will subordinate our qualms about our leaders as long as they do our own, often narrow minded, bidding and support “our” cause.
It distresses me to come to this opinion, but I think that we have become totally self-absorbed and focus on only what serves our own self-serving agenda. And altogether too many of us have lost the capacity to look beyond our short term benefits or to even consider the view point of someone who has the nerve to challenge us or to differ from our “absolutely correct” stand on any and all issues.
We have become so focused on ourselves and on the politically correct stance on everything, that I seriously wonder whether we could answer the call to serve and fight a challenge like that of the Second World War today. Would we willingly answer Churchill’s challenge given in his first address to the House of Commons in May of 1940 after becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the first year of World War II, in which he said “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat”?
Or could we respond to the challenge of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address in January of 1961 when he said “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Have today’s citizens reached the point at which they would just scratch their heads in wonder at such naiveté by the speaker and then go back to throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way?