Consider how we use the word “good” in our daily lives:
“He’s a good man.” “She’s a good friend.” “They’re good kids.” “They’re good parents.”
“I live in a good neighborhood.” “My kids go to a good school.” “I’m in a good place in my life right now.”
“I feel good about this.” “I’m blessed with good health.”
My first work out of college was as a teacher and coach. I vividly remember seeing a kid come off the field having played his or her heart out and saying “Good job!!”
A lot of us used to be able to say: “I work for a good company.” “I work for a good boss.” “I’m making a good salary.” (A whole lot fewer of us are able to say that now).
We know, deep down, what the word “good” means in real, living ways.
So here’s the first question: “Is President Trump a good human being?”
When I ask this question of my Republican friends, often I get a “Whatabout…” non-answer. “Well, what about Bill Clinton? Or Hillary?” That’s ducking the question. If you say the question doesn’t matter, as many of Trump’s supporters do, then you’re saying that “goodness” no longer matters as a value — not just for presidents and elected representatives, but as an essential human value.
I’m not suggesting that the people we elect to public office should be saints. Few of us rise to that standard in our own lives. But if we don’t hold our leadership to some level of fundamental integrity and decency, our society and our country falls apart.
One measure of integrity and decency is what a person resolutely, invariably says “No” to. No matter what the provocation or temptation, there is an inviolable line that person will not cross.
- In considering the people we elect to public office, the first line we should insist never be crossed is sexual abuse and harassment. Men in power have been abusing women with impunity for millennia — the Biblical King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah serves as just one example. But that abuse of power in today’s America, thanks to the courage of women, is no longer acceptable, and must not be acceptable in the future.
- A second inviolable line should be abusing one’s position for personal profit and gain – essentially stealing from the public. There are lots of ways in Washington (and state capitals) that an elected official can line his or her pockets at the public’s expense. All of them impoverish the nation financially and morally.
- I suggest a third “red line” for elected officials: upholding the law (what they, in fact, swear an oath to do on taking office). We should demand that the people we elect “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” People will disagree about the intent of the law; those differences in understanding are built into the Constitution. But what should never be permitted is disregard for the rule of law.
- Finally, and I know this may seem like a huge stretch, we should require that elected officials tell the truth. They’re politicians, in most cases running for office or re-election. It doesn;t come naturally. But the only real, sustainable solutions are the ones created to address real problems. It’s OK if different parties disagree about the solutions; but they ought, at least, to agree about the problems AND the criteria for what might be an acceptable solutions. They could step away from the compulsion to amass and control power and, instead, do what they were elected to do – serve ALL the people,
So as citizens and voters, we need to change the goal to Making America GOOD Again.
There’s not very much “goodness” in Washington these days, and even less “greatness.” Witness the absurd tragedy of a hastily cobbled-together tax plan that Republicans are cramming into law– without the faintest assurance that it will actually work — simply because they want to be able to have something to show for a year of 100% control over the government.
Donald Trump continuously, relentlessly positions himself as the one man in the nation (in the history of the world?) capable of “cleaning the swamp” and restoring America to “greatness.” Tragically, a minority of voters nationally believed that promise. But that’s not his job. It’s our job as citizens, and we have a critical, urgent responsibility to live up to that challenge. That starts in 2018 with electing good people to the presidency, to congress and state legislatures, and as governors.