Monday, April 22, 2019

Does Character Matter?

The brief interview has aired several times on cable networks and each time I see and hear it I become deeply concerned.  A reporter is asking a man about his reaction to the Trump presidency and the man responds:  “He’s a despicable human being but a good President.” I’ve tried to understand precisely what this citizen means.  How can a despicable person make a good President?

I’ve asked this question of others and what I am told is that it has to do with the mental image or “prototype” (archetype might be the better word)  that some have of what being a good “business man” means.  A business man, they believe,  gets things done and it doesn’t matter how he gets things done, or who gets passed over, or who gets stepped on, or who gets put down or hurt in the process. It is, they think, the way business has to be done and they believe Donald J. Trump to be a “good business man” (in spite of the facts about his own business record). 

This image of a good business man is not something new.  In the years 1923 to late 1929 the business man was, according to Stuart Chase, “the dictator of our destinies,” ousting “the statesman, the priest, the philosopher, as the creator of standards of ethics and behavior” and becoming “the final authority on the conduct of American society.”  Is such a thing happening again?  Have we decided that only a business man can solve the problems of the age?   Have we determined that ethics, character, and conduct no longer count—and all we want is for the job to be done? But what is that job we want done?  “Drain the swamp?” How does a despicable human being clean up a swamp?

Abigail Van Buren, better known as “Dear Abby” suggested that “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”  Have we decided these things no longer matter?

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