American voters have to decide who can best lead our country out of its failed political system. Who can govern the nation wisely, with intelligence and confidence, with fairness and compassion? Who can unify our people instead of further dividing them? Who can help heal our racial wounds; end our class warfare; and empower all of our citizens to add to, not take away from, the deeper meaning of our human existence? Who can guide Congress, and the military, and all of us to make decisions in life based on informed awareness and truth and not on ignorance and fear?
In Tana French’s absorbing novel, “Broken Harbor,” one of the main characters, detective Scorcher Kennedy, is worn down by the crime, the political corruption, the moral decay, and cynicism in his city. He reflects back on a time when life seemed to have meaning and there was a rational balance in people. He says to his partner, “I remember this country back when I was growing up. We went to church, we ate family suppers around the table, and it would never even have crossed a kid's mind to tell an adult to fuck off. There was plenty of bad there, I don't forget that, but we all knew exactly where we stood and we didn't break the rules lightly. If that sounds like small stuff to you, if it sounds boring or old-fashioned or uncool, think about this: people smiled at strangers, people said hello to neighbors, people left their doors unlocked and helped old women with their shopping bags, and the murder rate was scraping zero.
Sometime since then, we started turning feral. Wild got into the air like a virus, and it's spreading…. Everything that stops us being animals is eroding, washing away like sand, going and gone.”
Although the novel is set in Dublin, Ireland, Kennedy’s description is shockingly current to our nation and our day. What happened to us? When did our sense of decency get diseased and crawl off to die? What made us so materialistically vulgar? Why did we decide to cheapen life in such grossly callous ways?
We have presidential candidates whose political platforms advocate discrimination against the undocumented, against Muslims, women, the LBGTQ community, and African Americans. Some of them want a Supreme Court that will roll back every important reform for the past 50 years wrecking voter’s rights, a woman’s freedom to choose, the Civil Rights Act, Gay Rights, separation of Church and State, and more.
There are those wanting to be president who have no interest in international diplomacy, whose politics incite world conflict, whose answer to terrorists are our own acts of terror disguised in the form of drones, smart bombs, and the use of nuclear weapons.
How will any of that keep us from “turning feral,” or “stop us being animals”?
We need a president with a more responsible vision of humanity than that. We need one that sees us participating in the world in healthy, substantive, humanely momentous ways. We need a leader who will direct us out of the insensitive, greed motivated, love of profits at any cost kind of politics we are straddled with today.
In his important book, “The Return on Character: The Real Reason Leaders and Their Companies Win,” Fred Kiel warns of leaders who are what he calls “self-focused.” He says that these men and women, though often vastly affluent and surrounded by money and outward signs of success, display these character traits: they can’t be trusted to keep promises; they often pass blame onto others; they frequently punish well-intentioned people for making mistakes; and they are especially poor at caring for others.
The recent crew of self-focused candidates that wanted to be our next president was a disturbing phenomenon. Any one of them would have been disastrous for the country. We are now down to a final few and a choice for the best one is critical.
What we need is a leader who understands people, and cares about them, someone who is personally well balanced and emotionally healthy; someone who has the intellectual insight to face the complexities of not only our own disoriented society but our troubled world, as well. We need a leader with genuine character and in possession of guiding principles and beliefs that are moral, humane, compassionate, and enduring.
Again, Fred Kiel writes, “Character is an individual’s unique combination of beliefs and character habits that motivate and shape how he or she relates to others. Our character is defined by our behavior—the way we treat other people is our character in action.”
That is something crucial to keep in mind now and when we elect a president in November.
© 2016 Timothy Moody