Friday, December 17, 2004

A crisis in sincerity

Sorry folks, here is Thursday's post Friday morning:

I think the most discouraging thing we've learned from President Bush's victory and popularity (even approval ratings of nearly 50% are staggering) is that so many American citizens (and voters) and so much of American media are such poor judges of character.

Even some of our most renowned journalists say things that are naive and incredulous. Yesterday, in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman said that, in light of Mr. Bush's deep desire for freedom and democracy in the Middle East, it seemed "inexplicable" that the Bush administration would want to discourage the release of the UN's latest draft of its Arab Human Development Report, which suggests real ways Arab nation can achieve more popular rule, some semblance of democracy and more modern human rights - but criticized the aggrevating and aggressive military actions of the United States and Israel.

Is this an act? Is Friedman naive? Is this merely a rhetorical stance or ambiguous sarcasm? I thought only FOX-hounded journalists were dumb enough to believe Mr. Bush's sincere facade. I thought there might be some mainstream journalists who might keep their jaundiced eyes open and not mistake the emperor's clothes for the emperor, naked underneath.

It seems many Americans are becoming increasingly poor judges of character. They seem to depend more on sincerity yet less often recognize - much less stand up for - the real thing.

Mr. Bush's sincerity has been a charade both before and after his taking to religion. The man wasn't 'born again.' He doesn't seem very forgiving, and yet he seems to forgive himself far too much (he's even disdainful of second guessing himself). And so his hypocrisy runs deep. Mr. Bush doesn't want to help empower truly independent and "free" nations in the Arab world. He wants to enslave them to the American way of doing business.

Doesn't Friedman see this? And don't so many others?

Government has gotten a bad name because we do have some radar for insincerity, but it seems we used to have more - and found hypocricy more insulting. We're in real trouble when we expect belligerence and even smarmy sarcasm from public officials. Look at Secretary Rumsfeld, the smarmiest of Bush's team. He's waging a life and death war, but is he sincere? Is John Ashcroft sincere? Sad to say, personality traits have thrown most voters and viewers off the character scent. Both Al Gore and John Kerry were more sincere than George Bush could ever be, but their sincerity was compromised, and what was left over (of their public perceptions) was not enough to help sincerity win. Insincerity has been winning for years.

Sincerity means your actions fit your words. Americans have bought the shallowest notions of sincerity - and gotten it backwards. Far too many are mistaking bullishness for conviction, persistence (even with lies and mistakes) for high principle, and simplicity for salvation. Television-intoxicated Americans have come to believe that the mannerisms make the man, that fashion is an indicator of fate, that incompetence means "he's one of us." (And why would we want our leaders to be one of us? Because we don't assess our own character traits very well, either.)

How is it Americans got to be such poor judges of character? A whole lot of parenting going on seems to avoid the tough issues of character and principle, the real world applications of virtue and right and wrong. The American message (seen constantly in sitcoms) seems to be: strive, connive, manipulate, elude, even lie. And a whole lot of education has become so vocational that values are left by the wayside. And how we act on our values is what character is all about.

To be a better nation, we must become good, better and even excellent judges of character, both of ourselves, our fellow citizens and celebrities, our social and work-related associates - and our leaders. Neither the schools nor the media nor the government can be expected to do all the watching out for us. They, too, suffer our character crisis.

If character is important to the voters and the country, then sincerity and learning to recognize and assess sincerity is essential. Learning to be a good judge of a person's sincerity is an excellent place to begin.


At 12/17/2004 2:31 PM, Blogger Shakespeare's Sister said...

Lawrence, I hear ya. Leading up to the election, I wrote a post about who was the better man. Not just who was better for the country, but who had the better character. Your post reminded me of it, in which I wrote, in part:

It may be true that Bush is the prankster, the class clown, the bully who gets by on charm and succeeds as long as people are afraid. But it is Kerry who is willing to step in and take the mistreated by the hand, to do the right thing even if it’s not easy, to be honorable rather than amusing. That is the difference between power and strength, and it is a distinction that Bush will never understand.

You might still find it interesting, even though it’s outdated and, sadly, moot at this point.

At 12/22/2004 9:05 PM, Blogger Aleksu said...

This is one of your best posts so far Lawrence.

Americans need to learn to take responsability for their acts and their decisions, that way they can make others be accountable for theirs.

At 11/07/2005 8:16 AM, Blogger rokkgod said...

I was surfing around and found another George Bush site.George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People This place has a ton of funny videos and mp3s.


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