Thursday, November 5, 2015

Who deserves to be President? Does it even matter?

My all time favorite Christmas song is, without a doubt, I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer fame). Its very memorable lyrics end with the following lines:
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve
That last line, the sentiment there is nothing new. We hear similar things all of the time, especially with regard to government, ala "the government we get, we deserve." But let's consider the sentiment first with respect to Christmas. The sense is based on, of course, the good children/bad children dichotomy of the Santa mythos: good children get toys and candy, bad children get lumps of coal. But it goes well beyond that. Christmas is a time for joy and love, for experiencing both and for distributing both. And people who have, through the course of the year, been good people, been loving people, deserve that kind of Christmas. Those who have not been so loving, have not been particularly kind to others, well they maybe haven't really earned such a Christmas. Others may still treat them well, may still show them love around the holidays, but they know they haven't earned such treatment, that they really don't deserve it.

Of course, this is largely about one's inner self, one's self image, to some extent. Though there is a bit of a karmic aspect to it, as well. And perhaps this is part of what's behind much of the depression that impacts so many during the holidays, the sense that the lack of love and joy that they are experiencing is somehow what they deserve (even when this just isn't true). Regardless, the idea is about expectations based how one lives, how one acts, how one treats others.

And this is really the root of the similar thought noted above: the government we get, we deserve. In a government of the people, where we elect our legislators and leaders, We the People are of course fully responsible for who is in office. But we are also fully responsible for the state of society in general because of how we behave on a day to day basis. And I submit that the state of a government at a given moment is a reflection of society in that same moment (not the other way around). People complain about divisive discourse, obstructionism, and the like in the government, but fail to grasp that things are no different in society in general.

In this respect, we really do get the government that we deserve, no? Imagine, just for a moment, that Donald Trump becomes President. Given the state of society today, our obsession with self-promotion and constant need to get noticed, to be famous, and our tendency towards schadenfreude, towards dogpiling on people who are easy targets, would his election to the office be anything less than Cosmic Justice (with the assumption being that Trump would be an awful President, which—fair enough—might be an incorrect assumption)? It would be, after all, what we deserve.

That said, what about people who run for office, who seek political power? What do they deserve? Or maybe a better way to ask the question: do they deserve to hold a given office? It's a question I think very few people ask, when deciding whom to support or for whom to vote. Rather, people ask the question "who would be the best choice, who would (for instance) make the best President?" Most certainly, it's the question most asked and addressed by people in the media, people involved in actual campaigns, and people who are open partisans.

But I think my question is every bit as valid and every bit as important, if not moreso on both counts.

The lone example of a deserving office-holder?
True enough, the office of President is one of vital importance and I think it behooves us—as citizens—to elect competent people to such positions. But the office is also open to all citizens (provided they meet the constitutional requirements) as a matter of course. And holding it, holding any elected office in fact, in the United States is also a privilege. Anyone is free to seek office, is free to throw their name in the hat so to speak. But we don't have to accept them just because they want the job, just because they have the skills to do the job.

Again: it's a privilege.

And in this respect, the character of office-seekers is more than fair game. As is their personal and professional history. In my opinion, people who lie, cheat, and steal don't deserve the honor of being President, no matter how competent they might be. Nor do people who have, in the past, abused positions of power in either the private or public sector. Maybe if they owned up to such past transgressions. Maybe. But what politician has ever done that? And then there are people who are just mean and nasty to others. Again, I don't think they deserve the honor, either.

I'm not suggesting that only people "pure of heart" should be allowed to be President. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has behaved badly or less than nobly on occasion. But there is, in my opinion, some very clear lines out there, when a series of isolated or one-time incidents reach a tipping point to be something else, to be a reflection of character.

With this standard in mind, I'll say flat out that I find Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Chris Christie unworthy of the office. And I say this while simultaneously accepting the idea that both Clinton and Christie (not too sure about Trump) are fully capable of being effective Presidents. But I don't want them to be in the Oval Office. Because I don't think they deserve to be there. But I think I may be close to alone in this regard.

4 comments:

  1. I wouldn't say you're alone in the sentiments expressed above.

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  2. Well, that's good to hear, Liam. :)

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  3. Not alone. Those who feel otherwise are irritatingly LOUD with their opinions.

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