To Thine Own Self……..

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

Thus spoke William Shakespeare.  Despite many factors, such as bubbled up housing values coupled with greed and less-than-honest mortgage practices, unrealistic corporate and personal borrowing/spending and just the fact that natural economic cycles rear their heads every eight years or so,  that have fed into our current economic crisis, the most destructive, invidious and cancerous has been our moral and ethical vacuum.  If one started out in the realm of public service with one’s ethics intact, i.e one’s sense of self, it is a rarity to see that ethical sense of self still apparent after the leader occupies a place of power.  I will cite three men, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bobby Jindal as examples of our past, present and future in the battle to reform and reclaim our country’s sense of self.

Bush came into public service an empty shell of a man: the only job he ever held was as owner of a major league baseball team that his father bought for him.  He made his college career a laughable romp, he did not exhibit consistent follow-through in his military obligation, and he struggled with a severe void of self image when his alcoholism dominated his life.  All in all, not in the least bit surprising.  How could Bush, who never had a firm view of himself, call on that inner power, which never existed, to bolster him through his occupancy of the highest office in the land?  Instead, he substituted an emphasis on fear and secrecy, and a reliance on Dick Cheney’s oil-driven greed and dedication to immoral policies to see him through his tenure as President.  To boot, the press asked Laura Bush this week if she and her husband had watched President Obama’s “almost” state of the Union address on Monday night.  She replied, “We forgot.”  While stating that they are still very much engaged in national and world affairs, this obvious disengagement is part and parcel of their lack of concern and involvement during all portions of their public service.  This was the ultimate example of going in with nothing and coming out with nothing.

Barack Obama’s path was quite different.  He came into office an assured, accomplished man.  Above all, he brought with him a deep intellectual ability, a driven work ethic and a devotion to those basic right-and- wrong principles that he had learned and then advocated and lived by during his lifetime.  His specific stimulus proposals, along with his accompanying (timely or not) vast changes to long-standing social ills that prevailed, reflect a deep belief in his work over the years and above all, a fast and strong conviction to his own self in determining what is now important.  This belief in himself is not just a culmination of his campaign promises; it is reflective of everything that came before.  Just as Bush entered the Presidency running on empty, Obama comes to that role with his cup overflowing.

Bobby Jindal falls somewhere in-between Bush and Obama.  According to Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post, the Jindal we saw giving the Republican response to Obama’s speech last week was not the real Jindal:

I do not know a whole lot about Jindal.  Parker could be completely wrong in her take on Jindal and his intellectual and ideological prowess.  However, if I believe what Parker asserts is true, then Jindal has made a severe tactical, ethical and political blunder in his career.  His handlers have gotten the best of him.  He has allowed his sense of self to be usurped in order to fulfill his ambitions.  The classic example of this selling out is John McCain.  He was indeed a hero during the Viet Nam war.  He did place country above his personal well-being.  History, however, can not excuse one’s present behavior.  During his Presidential campaign, McCain threw away any semblance of himself when he resorted to dirty politics, plain-out lies about Obama and a willingness to smear just to win the trophy.  He lost himself.  This was clearly a total forfeiture of his sense of self, all that came before, just for the sake of winning.  Only time will tell where Jindal’s ethics and current fence-sitting will land.

Yo Mama’s mother, G-Momma, always taught me to be the best you can, that each individual must do what they think is right.  A certain honesty to oneself is absolutely necessary in order to live with oneself. Where has that concept disappeared to today?  Shakespeare was undoubtedly more elegant than G-Momma.  Nevertheless, the meaning of both of their lessons is well-learned.  Our country and the people chosen to lead it must develop and adhere to honesty and ethics, lest the whole ball of wax melt before our very eyes.

Of course, I presuppose that each person had a parent or mentor to lay down moral and ethical rules. Going forward, the individual must live by his values, open and truly, and his actions will reflect his beliefs and define his sense of self.

Start with yourself and build on what your mother taught you.  To thine own self be true.

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