Does an individual’s character matter?
This is the question facing the American electorate as they are presented with audio of the nominee of a major political party boasting about kissing, groping, and having sex with married women. The alternative is hardly an improvement, leaving us with the difficult task of choosing whether we would be more comfortable with the candidate who brags about beauty pageant contestants’ “obligation” to sleep with him or the candidate who defended a man who raped a twelve-year old girl (we picked some real winners, America).
Is this really the best we can do?
The America that was built on a respect for people’s inherent worth is now submitting itself to the likes of this type of behavior? A majority will still cast their ballot for one of the major party nominees in this cycle, which is understandable. One of the two will win, and people like to side with winners. Some will even still believe that their candidate will govern well, and I hope they’re correct. There is, however, a gaping lack of acknowledgment that such behaviors are unacceptable and that we should strive to be better.
The answer is not to cast stones at those we view as “less perfect” than we are – the answer is to forgive those imperfections while still holding some sort of standard regarding the character we seek in those we’ll trust with leading the greatest country on earth.
It’s irresponsible to assume that the character of an individual will have no impact on that individual’s method of governing. To say that values and governance are mutually exclusive is quite short-sighted; if the individual selected to lead suffers from a lack of basic respect for entire segments of the population he or she was chosen to lead, can we really expect that leader to effectively protect those people’s rights? I am in no way expecting a perfect leader – we already have one of those – but He keeps His seat a little higher than the top of the U.S. government. Our leaders will have flaws and may hold views that some find offensive, because the beauty of debate allows that exchange in dialogue between opposing ideas.
The issue shifts, however, when an individual begins lacking respect for people and views them as objects rather than as fellow human beings. Failure to value people is the failure to allow them to succeed – treating someone with disdain only curbs their potential for success, thus curbing the entire community to which they belong. If we claim to be people who value every human life, that value must continue beyond the womb. A person’s value is their most basic claim of respect, and a vital component of maintaining that foundation is to elect leaders who recognize the inherent worth of each individual as a person, not an object or obstacle.
It’s okay to ask that our leaders maintain some basic sense of respect for other people.
That respect, or lack thereof, for people is illustrated by actions, yes; but it is also illustrated by words. Both are important, and some may argue that the former is more important than the latter because of the proof of having carried out some disrespect, rather than simply vocalizing it. However, the weight of words cannot be understated – “words matter” is a cliche that rings true in virtually every situation, especially regarding one’s attitude toward people.
One word has the ability to impact someone’s life in unimaginable ways, and abusing that power is a revelation of one’s true feelings toward the word’s target.
The Bible speaks of this explicitly in Luke 6:45, where He states the following:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Regardless of your faith, the mouth revealing the contents of the heart is a reality we cannot afford to ignore. Lacking proof that someone committed some offensive action is of little comfort when the sentiments they express reveal a desire to commit such actions. An individual who has never been charged with shoplifting yet constantly speaks of the joy he finds in shoplifting is hardly an individual any store owner would trust to enter their establishment – and it’s even worse when we’re talking about people’s God-given rights. I find it hard to believe that someone whose words convey an utter lack of respect for entire groups of people is somehow going to properly defend the rights of those same groups.
The need for decent – not perfect, not even all morally sound, simply decent – leaders is not something that should be in question, because neither careless nor immoral individuals are fit to be at the head of a country whose foundation is the individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A bad man may be able to govern and he may not cause any major issues; we’ve had our share of imperfect leaders (read: all of them), but the lack of basic respect that we see in this cycle is on a different level of concern.
Infidelity plagues every facet of our society and politics is no different; and without taking away from the devastating consequences of such actions, speaking about women in such a demeaning and disrespectful manner is a troubling reality that we face from both major candidates in this cycle. This isn’t something that “all men do” – this is something that rude men do. Anyone who views another human being as an object should not be trusted with the reins of a government charged with protecting those people’s rights.
If you wouldn’t trust them around your child, you shouldn’t trust them to be your president. If you constantly have to monitor the television screen to make sure a presidential candidate isn’t on the screen in front of young ears, you shouldn’t trust them to be your president. If you’ve listened to a candidate defend the indefensible, you shouldn’t trust them to be your president.
Standards, guys. They matter. Let’s hold our elected officials to a higher standard. Don’t hold them to a double standard – strive to live at the level you hold them to – and don’t settle for poor character any longer. Let’s raise our own standard of conduct and choose leaders who will reflect that. We’ve settled for “what can win” in the past, and the country is only becoming more and more divided as respect becomes a lost art. We lost it in 2016. Let’s work now to foster it again.