I was born in 1940. My childhood values and rules for conduct were instilled in me by my parents, relatives, teachers, and other adults around me. They were members of The Greatest Generation and, as such, knew the value of sacrifice and commitment to honorable behavior.
The three cardinal rules instilled in me from my earliest memories were tell the truth; don’t be a bully; and you must not steal. Failure to abide by these rules brought immediate correction and, in some cases, suitable punishments. And always there was the Sunday School insistence upon living by The Golden Rule of “In everything, do unto others what you will have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)
My progress through childhood and adolescence was measured by milestones that all involved HONOR. My Boy Scout oath began with on my honor. I was in the National Honor Society. Every Sunday I was exhorted to honor my parents. There were honor rolls, honor guards, holidays to honor patriots and important events in history. I served on Honor Councils and every school I attended, or where I taught, operated under highly respected honor codes that were emphasized in academics and in campus behavior. My marriage vows included one to honor my wife.
Honor was a tangible, universally understood concept. Death before dishonor. That sterling measuring stick has apparently vanished from popular use, from a place in our daily lives. Witness our U.S. senators as they sat in rude inattention at a trial they swore to honorably adjudicate!
Bullies were anathema to school officials and to parents alert to the insidious danger of allowing school yard tactics to inform the development of their charges. We all know what bullying looks like. It should not be tolerated in children or in adults.
It is especially dangerous in adults who should stand as models for behavior, both personal and public, on small stages and on the national stage. Telling lies is still a major fault line in a person’s character. (A few white lies are acceptable, even necessary, when they are crafted to avoid inflicting needless pain on someone). Selection of colleagues determined by their submission to bullying and fear is reprehensible. Yet we have condoned both for four long years.
During the impeachment trial, the greatest disappointment was the exposure of a subtle evil that infects our government, the evident reluctance of the United States Congress to condemn lies, bullying, and the abnegation of honor, and to allow behavior that we would try our best to eradicate from our children’s codes of conduct, to remain unpunished, in fact, rewarded.
The verdict brought by the senatorial jury is not my concern here. Future generations and history will render a verdict on Donald Trump and his presidency. This was a moment for personal integrity from those jury members that seems to fall appallingly short of what is required.
I do not so greatly fear some final judgment of my life as I dread the thought of looking in the mirror each day and seeing a hollow man who deserted the principles he once held dear in order to protect some powerful tyrant and a set of values based on prejudice and hatred. I fear seeing the reflection of someone who valued the security of his bank account and worldly wealth above the preservation of his own ethical core. “For what shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
Those of us who came of age in the 1950s have been labeled “The Silent Generation” and I have, in the main, been a man of the generation. Except for times among close friends, I have kept my political opinions away from public view.
In the face of a monstrous betrayal by so many who should stand up for the values they were brought up to value, I cannot remain silent. Speaking out may cost me some friends, but if our friendships are based on shared politics, then they are shallow indeed.