Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In Search of Dignity- David Brooks

A friend recommended that I read David Brooks Op Ed today in the NYT. It was grand! He titled it, In Search of Dignity, and don't we all. Brooks quotes the historian Gordon Wood who wrote, “Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.”

Brooks writes, "Washington absorbed, and later came to personify what you might call the dignity code. The code was based on the same premise as the nation’s Constitution — that human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm."

He says, "But the dignity code itself has been completely obliterated. The rules that guided Washington and generations of people after him are simply gone."

Sadly, true.

Of course, the stories of politicians who trampled that dignity code in the past few years are endless. 'Dignity' and 'politician' seem quite oxymoronical. Right here in Toledo, our 70-year-old mayor was caught on camera calling youngsters in a park, 'fatso' 'tubby' and 'fat ass!'

Perhaps the dignified men and women who seek political office are too, well, dignified to get elected. Maybe Americans want their politicians to be hard-asses who knock heads around and commit a little adultery on the side.

Is that why this nation is on a slippery slope downward?

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