Maybe you've been listening with me to a new radio program on NPR called "Indivisible Radio." It's a call-in talk show designed so that listeners of all political persuasions can join in and discuss their reactions to what's going on during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Tonight's host stated that he's heard both Republicans and Democrats alike express the feeling that they are "losing their country", so tonight's theme was "I feel like I'm losing my country because____________." (Fill in the blank.)
It's easy for me to answer that. I grew up in the sixties. Back then every school child by the age of 8 knew the stories of our two greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. We celebrated both their birthdays in February by having class parties, eating cherry pies or cookies, and retelling their stories. The teachers tacked up the same dime store cutouts of their faces on the bulletin boards every year, but the tales of their stellar character never faded. For Washington, it was how as a boy he cut down his father's favorite cherry tree. Upon being questioned about it, he answered with complete and utter honesty. "I cannot tell a lie. Yes, I cut it down."
For Lincoln, it was how he walked many miles to return the book he had borrowed from a neighbor. His honesry was so legendary he earned the nickname "Honest Abe."
Of course we learned the other details of their lives as well: of Washington's brave leadership during the Revolution, and how Lincoln steadfastly steered the country through the tumultuous Civil War. But as children we were most impressed with the simple stories of the character they displayed as boys. It was this sterling moral character that made them great leaders of our country during times of trouble and distress. They both seemed to possess an inner compass that enabled them to stay the course and determine the right action to take in times when others may not see the clear path. Washington and Lincoln are considered two of our greatest presidents because of their honesty, integrity, and courage. Can we say the same of any of our current leaders today? I'm sure there are some honest politicians in Washington today, but I do not see these traits in our highest elected officials. "I feel like I'm losing my country"....... because we no longer hold up the high ideals of honesty, integrity, and courage like we once did. We no longer look for leaders with great character who will lead us through any storm. Now we settle for the one who promises us the biggest payback for our vote. We base our political choice on how we think it will affect the stock market and our own bank account. We look for the leader who promises to put us ahead of the pack and focus on our interests before the interests of others. And politicians running for office promise us the world and brag about their own popularity despite their moral lapses. ("I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone....")
May we make it through the next four or eight years with our country more or less intact, having learned a hard lesson that character does count when it comes to electing our leaders. And may the dark period we are now experiencing help new leaders emerge who have a better moral compass and a sense of what is right and good for our country as a whole and the world in general.