Monday, January 22, 2018

The Candidate's Creed: Decency, Humaneness, and Fairness

Why can't we have a government that is decent, humane, and fair? There are other things the government needs to be – strong, intelligent, protective, to name just three – but if you and your government are not decent, humane, and fair, all the rest will not matter.

What is it to be decent? Decent people and decent governments are respectful of others. They do not bully, they do not belittle, they respect truth, they respect the beliefs of others, they seek goodwill in themselves and in others. They are not perfect, but they try to be better, and they seek the better angels in themselves and in others. They do not put themselves first in line, they sacrifice for the good of others. They contribute their fair share, and more when they can. They seek to do what's right because it is right, not because of what they hope to gain from it. They understand their limitations. They applaud the strengths of others.

What is it to be humane? We are all on this earth together at the same time; others have come before us and given us much; others will succeed us as we pass on our land and air and water and civilization to them, along with the knowledge and beliefs that we think worthy of being passed on. While we are here, living together, some will be happy while others grieve; later on, the grieving will recover and the happy will be afflicted. It is never equal, and happiness and grief come from different sources – health, wealth, the joys of living the good life. Helping others to succeed, helping others to find meaning in their work, helping others to be happy and healthy and productive, not holding others to standards that are unreasonable and that we ourselves would not want to be held to, understanding the different circumstances and capacities of others and allowing for both weaknesses and strengths – these are the standards of being humane that both governments and people need to aspire to.

What is it to be fair? The Golden Rule is not the property of any one religion, the Golden Rule is the property of all of mankind. Indeed, it is the property of more than mankind. Chimpanzees understand unfairness when they see it; they spit at the handlers who favor one chimp over another; and the favored chimp seeks to redress the balance in favor of the chimp afflicted with unfairness. Can people and their governments do any less than chimpanzees, or must the extra capacities of our brains be used to accentuate and perpetuate unfairness? Unfairness is heaping more privilege on the privileged, erecting rules that perpetuate advantage, rather than redressing it. Unfairness is also not allowing those who have worked hard and produced excellence to benefit from the fruits of their efforts and abilities, whether they are at the bottom or the top of the ladder. Unfairness is denying the basic democratic rights, the basic human rights of participating and voting in an equal manner. Fairness is inclusiveness; unfairness is divisiveness.

So I stand before you today to say that, although we are all beset by human frailties, of inabilities to distinguish the good and the true, of cloudiness of vision, nonetheless, despite these frailties, I declare that as your representative, I will be just that – your representative. And as such, I will seek to represent the best that is in you and in us. I will seek to improve our government's actions to be be more decent, more humane, and more fair than it has ever been. That will be my goal.

Now, on each issue honest people will differ on what is decent, humane, and fair. That is normal. But what is not normal is for Americans to declare that decency is passé, that humaneness can be abandoned, and that fairness means acceding to the power of bullies with money. Today's politics are not normal and are indeed dangerous, because we see all around us those who would deny those basic virtues. It is sad to think, but instead of assuming that these virtues are respected – virtues we sometimes call “norms” – today it is necessary to stand up, to state those virtues distinctly, and to insist that they be observed and respected. It is sad to think that this is necessary, but it is, it just is.

So I stand before you as the candidate who will state and restate the necessity of being decent, humane, and fair, and who will try my hardest to identify in each issue what is the more decent, most humane, and fairest solution, and who will fight my hardest to make the government take that course. Others will differ in their solutions; that's politics, that's being human. And if they can make the case that their solution is decent, humane, and fair, then we will listen to them and strive to reach an understanding.

But, if they say that decency is unnecessary, that humaneness is profligate softness, that fairness means prostrating ourselves before the rich and the powerful, then I say we will not listen to them. Those are the voices of perdition, the voices of destruction of the individual and the spirit, as well as the state. We will not listen and compromise with the voices of destruction. Instead, we will fight to the end to uphold our belief in what is well known (if now a cliché) as our “core values.”

We will not allow ourselves to be debased below even the level of primates with smaller brains. Instead, we will use our brains and our hearts and our spirits to support the vision of good men and women from the generations who came before us, and to add our modest contribution to those who will come after, and we will reaffirm with vigor and strength that decency, humaneness, and fairness shall not be diminished, but instead will be reinvigorated, that we shall withstand this test and emerge even stronger than before, proving that our vision of the good life for all of us will remain intact.

I thank you for your attention, and I ask for your support.

Budd Shenkin

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