Sunday, March 22, 2009

A web page which I frequent, Helium, is for writers, citizen journalists and so on. They are always looking for contributors to write articles on any topic that you can imagine. Frequently they sponser contests. This weekend I visited and discovered their current contest; Helium’s Responsibility Project Writing Contest. There are 15 prompts and I selected, Should our politicians be held to a higher moral standard? My submission follows:

Do moral standards come in levels? There are jobs with differing levels of responsibility.
A person’s integrity may be measured as high or low. There is but one moral standard and one either meets it or they do not. Being held to a “higher moral standard” is like being asked to give more than 100%. Although we frequently hear people say, “he gave 110%”, or some figure above 100%, in reality, any one of us is only capable of giving 100% at any given time.

It has become common to expect athletes, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, scout leaders, any and all people in positions of responsibility for a public trust to lead lives of exemplary behavior, at least in public: to set the example. We expect these individuals to set aside their humanity. When they succumb to the frailties to which the more common man gives in to, we the public, raise our voices in indignation at the betrayal of our faith by such public figures. We interpret their behavior as being done to us individually and are outraged. When, in fact, they are just giving into temptation. The Ten Commandments of Christianity weren’t developed arbitrarily but because they represent the temptations given into by mankind over his entire history no matter how high or low his position in society.

We expect the other guy to be perfect, while reserving the choice to be imperfect for ourselves.

Perhaps then, common sense might dictate that we take a more laissez-faire approach to expectations of our leaders. That is to say, live and let live. We accept their moral/ethical lapses and hold those failures not against them so long as they do the job otherwise expected of them. If they break the law they will then be subject to accountability before the courts. For example: a Boy Scout leader has a sexual encounter with one of his underage charges and is discovered. He will be prosecuted under the law and suffer the consequences. However, if the scout leader is having an extramarital affair with the scout’s mother that will be ok, because otherwise he is an exceptional scout leader.

There now, that makes it easier, doesn’t it? While some readers will agree with this tenet, others might take exception to such a lackadaisical approach to expectations for people in the public eye and in particular, our elected politicians. So, is there some middle ground between the mythical “higher moral standard”, and the base standard of immorality?

The perfect human being comes with flaws. But even with their flaws, the expectation that our leaders will adhere to the ethic of reciprocity is not unreasonable. Politicians should not be held to a higher moral standard than the electorate, nor should an unprincipled lack of integrity be accepted from them. Maybe it would be enough for them to adhere to the standards put forth by R. Fulghum in his book; All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Perhaps we could all try following those instructions.



Blogger Churlita said...

What an interesting and thought provoking post.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

As an early childhood teacher I heartily agree with the last sentence!
Some thoughtful writing here - good enough for an article in a newspaper imho! :)

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article, Rel. I just heard about Helium from aother writing friend, I'll have to check it out.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I love that book. I think it should be requisite reading in middle and high schools, just to get basic principles across.

He discusses the 10 commandments in there, too.

I need to think on your concept for a bit. You've offered a perspective I hadn't considered before, really.


Thinking of you, and I will definitely leave your love with the books at Shakespeare's Company.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

4:21 PM  
Blogger Puss-in-Boots said...

I like your article, Rel, and I think it's very well written. I'm going to check out writing group may be interested. Thanks for the link.

11:06 PM  

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