Modesty: The Forgotten Political Virtue

"Man who sings own praises always out of tune." So opined that celluloid Confucian, Charlie Chan. Of course, that was then, this is now. The era of the humble cultural hero, Charles Lindbergh, and the reticient politician, "SIlent Cal" Coolidge, have gone the way of the Model A.

Now we are agog over Gaga, mad about Madonna and all the brash chest thumping pro athletes and their ilk. Self-promotion is looked upon as a vital activity for the up and coming (fill in the blank). And nowhere has this social hubris been more destructive to the body politic than in politics.

Perhaps it is a bit of over compensation in our society where physical prowess and beauty have become social ideals. To paraphrase Rush Limbaugh, politics has become the arena for homely people. But even if that is true ( the visible evidence tends to support Rush) how can we continue to justify the grandiose in  a democracy where the term "public servant" was once a bedrock taken-for-granted and not just an empty phrase? Where the "man on the white horse" in politics was always suspect but now sought out?

Granted, especially in the lower House, on a federal level, the need to tout one's achievements every two years does lead to a certain desperation in promoting one's continued tenure. But, wouldn't it be refreshing for a politician to say simply, "I did my best to protect and defend the Constitution these last few years. I was and remain ever vigilant regarding your freedoms..." ?

Time to look for Coolidge- type virtues in potential leaders. " It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man." Or, "I think the American people want a solemn ass as a President and I think I'll go along with them."

Instead we get self-grading pols who always seem to grade on a curve; their own view of electability. Two examples: The famous news conference where George W. was asked if he could name one mistake he had made as President. By all accounts he is a humble sort of person but there in the glare of the Press he would not admit to even one tiny flaw. Lesson: what you say may and will be held against you in the court of public opinion.

Or, the interview with our current President on the heels of the last election: a reversal of political fortunes right up there with the beheading of Charles I. What could the President muster? "We didn't present our message well." So safe. So patronizing towards the will and intelligence of the electorate.

The very Father of our Country, a man of unmatched acheivement, was a man prone to blushing... a man often struck dumb in the face of compliment. Would it were that our current pack of Solons come to understand that blushing is the color of modesty and that silence in the presence of hubris is a beautiful and virtuous thing.

"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last and servant of all." Mark 9:35.

Come. Let us reason together.