Candidates show country’s character

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Tuesday, May 17, 2016 10:02am
  • Opinion

“If you won’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” — quote attributed to numerous sources

Historically, when our nation has transitioned from one way of life to another, there has usually been some optimism about what was to come. That was true at the time of the American Revolution and it was true as we moved from an agrarian society toward the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th through mid-19th centuries.

Even during World War II, the song “White Cliffs of Dover” with its lyric “There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after. Tomorrow, when the world is free,” looked forward to a better day. It didn’t quite turn out that way, as wars persist, but optimism kept us going with the hope that a new and better world was about to dawn.

Today we are gripped not by optimism but by a deep pessimism, even cynicism, that permeates virtually every layer of our culture. According to a Real Clear Politics Poll, more than 66 percent of those surveyed think this country is headed in the wrong direction, yet like a man who is lost but refuses to ask for directions, we keep barreling full steam ahead.

While politics has always been a rhetorical combat sport, the insults thrown by Donald Trump and his supporters have taken political discourse — if it can even be called that — to a new and depressing low. Such language keeps us from solving, or even discussing, the real problems this country faces.

A book by an “anonymous congressman,” titled “Confessions of Congressman X,” is scheduled for publication on May 24, according to Daily Mail.com. In it, the writer, who is reportedly a man and a Democrat, mocks the country he supposedly serves as a “nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep.” He says he and most of his colleagues never read the bills they vote on and spend most of their time raising money. “My main job,” he writes, “is to keep my job, to get re-elected. It takes precedence over everything.”

Given the behavior and history of so many members of Congress, who doubts his claim?

It was thought once that our leaders should possess good character. In this election, however, it appears voters will be forced to choose for president — if they vote at all — between a boastful, superficial, narcissistic, misogynist and a corrupt, entitled, shady, lying, unaccomplished woman who has ignored her husband’s affairs in the pursuit of power.

Are these two candidates a reflection of our cynical and increasingly secular culture? They must be, otherwise so many voters would not have propelled them to the top of their respective parties. If we are willing to settle for less than the best, we can be sure that less is exactly what we will get.

Another character quality that is in decline is modesty. A new Calvin Klein ad features an “upskirt” photo of a young woman’s underwear. Victoria’s Secret catalogs and shopping mall displays, visible to children, feature barely clad women with “come hither” stares. Some of the sexiest films ever made were produced during Hollywood’s “Golden Age” when women and men kept on most of their clothes. Films and TV today go for the blatant, mainstreaming sex scenes, flaunting nudity, so much so that a movie’s “R” rating could just as easily stand for “raunchy” as “restricted.”

Scriptwriters put words in the mouths of actresses that “would make a sailor blush,” as the old saying goes. Yet, we are supposed to regard this as progress and equality.

Do I sound “old-fashioned”? There is something to be said about old things. Some things endure because they have proven to work for the individual and for society at large. Nations built to last generally do; nations allowed to rot from within do just that.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

More in Opinion

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: September is National Recovery Month

The biggest challenge when talking about recovery is the truth that one… Continue reading

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is seen in this Dec. 19, 2019 file photo. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Opinion: Alaska will greatly benefit from historic infrastructure bill

I was able to add many provisions to our bipartisan bill that are targeted to help Alaska.