Growing up, my parents and my mentors and various authority figures in my community taught me that integrity mattered. Honesty mattered. Respect mattered. Empathy mattered.
I learned that there was a golden rule - to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. The Boy Scouts reminded us weekly that we were to do our duty to God and our country; to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
Today, we respect a man or woman who honors his or her word. Who keeps commitments. Who has the strength to acknowledge a mistake and then right the wrong. Who listens to others and shows genuine care and value for those around them.
Yet, as this election cycle drags on, I wonder about the place that character holds in our culture. In the game of party politics, the other side's sins are reason for impeachment and outcry, while one's own identical mistakes are explained away. Both of the leading candidates in this run for the Presidency have a history of unapologetic lying. Both of these candidates have a Foundation in their name supposedly set up for charitable giving and yet there are serious accusations against both organizations that they are more of a slush fund than anything else. Both (seem to) have a history of demeaning women: one clearly through degrading comments and gestures, the other in allegedly casting aside victims of her husband's advances for political gain.
We can explain such things away as politics and business-as-usual. We can forgive certain evils in certain situations because of the utilitarian value. Maybe it wasn't wrong, because it seems to have worked...
But what happens in a country that does not require integrity, honesty, and character in its leadership? In such a climate, is it remotely possible that there could be a political class not marred by scandal or shady deals or accusations of falsehood?
Two of the least-trusted candidates in recent (?) history are running to lead this country. To whom will they be accountable? To what standard will they be held? Will there be a reward for integrity and consequences for corruption?
What road will this nation take? What path will this culture follow?
Who will we be, and what will we value?