SARGE: Fleas And All

Ms. Sandra Bates RN (ret.) of Baton Rouge, in a Letter to the Editor of the Advocate stated:

“When will Americans realize that morality has very little to do with a man or woman’s ability to lead? In an ideal world, we would wish it so. But history has proven that is not the case. These constant uproars over sexual hi-jinks (sic) only serve to distract the public from the issues that truly matter. The fact is that the movers and shakers of this world are generally not the most morally circumspect.”

The writer makes the case many of our public service “heroes” walked on clay-encased feet seriously endangering their ethical gait because of their immorality and self-servant attitudes. She names Harding, FDR, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Eisenhower and Clinton as having been morally challenged. She to challenges Thomas Jefferson’s hallowed reputation and his relationship with Sally Hemings. Alexander Hamilton’s contentious nature resulted in his fatally housing a musket-ball launched by Aaron Burr in a duel Hamilton would have better avoided.

Hamilton enjoyed these dramatically staged acts of gun-play. And, that’s how it was handled: as a stage-play. The protagonists accomplished the pomp and circumstances of preparations: challenge, acceptance, and selection of “seconds,” selection of weapons (pistols in this case) and execution of the count-down. They’d face each other, cock their weapons and fire “in the direction” of the opponent. This saved face and nobody was called a coward. Some understood gunshot wounds were damned painful and should be avoided.

It wasn’t until Hamilton (a great personal friend of George Washington) died that dueling was forbidden in the Federal Capital region. Andrew Jackson later killed a man for insulting Jackson’s wife but that was in the “territories” and acceptable there.

Ms. Bates brings her argument closer in history when speaking of Jimmy Carter, a man accepted as highly moral and ethically based; so much so it hurt him while conducting diplomacy over saber-rattling in the Iranian Hostage Crisis. He was summarily “fired.” Ronald Reagan became president. Carter’s ethically sincere efforts caused his downfall. Americans appeared to want political acumen and a practically executed and maintained narrowing of ethical vistas over moral/ethical superiority.

An old and simple fact of life (except in wildly infrequent instances) is recognizable: “nice guys finish last.” Ask Mitt Romney.

Ms. Bates said: “I do not condone moral turpitude in any way, shape or form. But plaster saints do not build countries or run governments. That is just life.”

Bravo milady! You’re correct.

But many see our leaders as being travelers in the same uniform and as such, cut from the same bolt of whole, moralistic cloth. We expect our leaders to be above the coarse vanities and vile moral depravities we prefer thinking we’d never consider falling into in our private or public lives. We elevate OUR expectations on a moralistic basis and demand our representatives BE representative of that moral structure. This is how WE wish to be seen in the public world.

Few can climb to those Olympian aspirations. So, when they stumble, fall and try rising to meet the challenge; we ascribe their failure to a lack of moral character. That accusation wounds us because we (with our rose-colored glasses firmly in place at the time) expected reflective sainthood from men and women with feet of the same clay as ours. We expect better of them.

Practicality demands we be represented by men and women with a different code of conduct. It’s how the world navigates through the intrigues of international relations and diplomacy. Those who wage war with men of questionable character must be the mirror image of those adversarial people’s strength. Thus, they may fall prey to their weaknesses as well. All things must balance. The childish school-yard taunt of; “it takes one to know one” comes to mind.

Gene Simmons of KISS (the rock band) said it best in 2004: “In time of war, if you go through a bad neighborhood, I don’t want a little French poodle, I want a Rottweiler on my hands.”

When you want to “let slip the dogs of war” you must accept that dog fleas and all.

Thanks for listening

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