Politics, pragmatism, and probity

I confess that for many years I’ve wondered how anyone could seriously want to be President of the United States. This comes from my experience of JFK.

He was the youngest President ever elected. He didn’t serve a full term. By his third year in office, he had transformed from a young, vital man into an aging man in pain with bags under his eyes and a deep note of sadness. This was a sobering lesson.

I started watching how other Presidents aged in office. It seemed to me that no one would seriously want that job. It made anyone who did suspect in my eyes, driven by ego at the very least.

I am a great fan of pragmatism. The philosophy of pragmatism dictates that actions be judged by the results they produce. This isn’t a case of “the end justifies the means” but rather an acknowledgment that a diverse society requires compromise and an understanding of “the Other.”

Our polarized and fragmented social structures seem to be missing both of those elements.

I think it is possible to be pragmatic without relinquishing probity. I also want someone leading me whose moral position is unequivocal. I suppose from a political standpoint I’d like to feel good again about waving the flag. It’s been a long time.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to agree with each and every belief of a candidate. If I had that sort of sure lock on right/wrong, perhaps I would be running for office.

But I don’t. I muddle along making the best decisions I can with the information I have. I don’t want to invest what limited physical and mental resources I have in knowing everything there is to know that’s important about our world today. I’d rather, frankly, write poetry and try to make sense of what I perceive as “the big issues.” And those have NOTHING to do with politics, or government, or status, or financial gain.

They have a lot to do with kindness, social justice, grace, and fiscal responsibility, pretty much in that order.

I’d like to know that the people I’m voting for value those things as well.

I see evidence of those qualities in McCain and Obama. The rest of them are just politicians. They may be “pragmatic” (do anything to get elected), but their values are different from mine.

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2 Responses to “Politics, pragmatism, and probity”

  1. Barbara Says:

    It also seems that presidents become jaded after a while. Johnson started out so positive about the war on poverty, but by the end of his time in office he’d robbed the program of funding to support a real war that he insisted on staying in to the point of insanity.

  2. Marianne Says:

    Barbara, it seems to me that we probably see about 1% of what’s really happening. The evidence, instead of being transparent, appears in lines and wrinkles and tension in the face of our leaders.

    I still don’t understand why anyone would want the job.

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