Over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed the two major parties in the United States provide the American people with some of the most despicable candidates in the history of our Republic. These are strong words. Unfortunately, even these strong words may be understated.
On one side of the aisle, we have a bombastic man who consistently drops one-liners that hint at his being prepared to betray our allies, alienate minorities, and restrict the press’s freedom to criticize his style and his policy. On the other hand, we have a woman whose penchant for secrecy and deception has only recently been revealed to be the character flaw of her entire party.
Both are destructively egocentric, though their egoism manifests publicly in different ways. Trump wears his narcissism on his sleeve; Hillary at least pretends to care about others though her care, by all evidences, appears to be rooted in pandering for the necessary votes.
Whether blatant or subtle, such self-centeredness in our leaders will be devastating for our Democratic Republic.
Some may say that the government has failed us, but such a sentiment overlooks an important factor of United States governance: Washington, DC represents the collective will of the people. Any moment that Congress betrays her constituents is a demonstration that her constituents betrayed their Congress by their apathy and ignorance.
In America, when the character of the politicans becomes corrupted, it has done so because the Nation’s collective soul has shunned virtue. Few, however, will ever proclaim that message.
Understandably, it is a difficult message to sell. The vast majority of American people simply want the freedom to live their lives unfettered by the concerns of politics. Indeed, many of the Founding Fathers seem to have aspired to create a government that would allow her people to live such lives, but the Founders also knew that such a government would be practically impossible to create.
We are currently living in a political storm in which all of the Founders anxieties are coalescing perfectly–the checks and balances are under attack from just about every branch and the people have lost the desire to pay the requisite attention to rein those horses in. Instead, we are yielding to potential tyrants, expecting a President to save the day.
With Washington almost completely out of control and, for the majority of Americans, so far away, what are we average Americans to do to curb the power hungry diets of our leaders?
Step one: seek virtue.
I recently read Eric Metaxas’s latest book, If You Can Keep It, and while there may be some historical inaccuracies and exaggerations in his telling of early American history, many of his underlying themes remain valid; the primary one stems from his summary of Os Guinness’s “golden triangle.”
A free nation like the United States requires a virtuous people, but people first must come to understand what virtue even means. One thing that has become demonstrably safe to say is that virtue cannot be subjective if for nothing more than practical reasons. If everyone lives by his or her own standard of morality, what that means is that everyone will live according to an ethic that promotes one’s self-interests. When the individuals within any society start to do that, their fortitude quickly begins to crumble as people cease being capable of doing anything other than looking out for number one.
Instead, seek a virtue that exists somewhere outside of yourself and for the good of those around you.
Step two: build character.
Once you’ve discovered virtue, then it becomes time to start shaping your character in accordance with those virtues. Do not merely consider them to be “good ideas.” Actually live by them.
As a Christian, I believe that the primary source and example of the needed ethic can be found in the person of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, the entire goal of my life has become to imitate His character and actions.
I follow Him, in part, because I believe that His teaching and the fruit of His life have changed everything in me and can do the same for the entire world.
Step three: vote.
While many who read this may be thinking, “I have voted and chaos still seems to reign.” Consider the fact that far too many have forsaken this right through sheer apathy. Turnout has been fairly miserable lately.
As a free country, the United States needs a constituency of virtuous, upstanding people who recognize the need to be invested in the governance of the Nation. If people merely criticize her, blame her, while doing nothing to be a force for good as a citizen, then that individual becomes a part of the problem because apathy creates fertile soil for injustice.
We’ve got to stop being a part of the problem.