Today, President Donald Trump proclaimed next week, October 15 – 21, to be National Character Counts Week. The Senate submitted the resolution, as it has done for the past 24 years. It is always celebrated the third week of October.
Trump’s proclamation quoted former president Ronald Reagan, who said, “There is no institution more vital to our Nation’s survival than the American family. Here the seeds of personal character are planted, the roots of public virtue first nourished.”
Those of you who have just finished fake coughing the word “irony” eight times since reading the first sentence can have a sip of tea now. And everybody about to comment with the word “cuck” (or whatever the female equivalent of that is) can calm down a sec. I’m not here to question the President’s devotion to character or how much it counts in his mind. In fact, I imagine other people’s character weighs quite heavily in Donald Trump’s selection of advisers and employees at this time.
I am instead charmed that schools across the nation are about to embark on classroom activities geared toward defining and building character. I am not sure that a lot of people know what that looks like any more. While a good deal of Americans (and a few Europeans who follow American politics) have a good deal to say about Donald Trump’s expression of character, and the other half of them have a good deal to say about Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s, and all of us have a number or words or block buttons for each other, as a nation — as a first world — we’re kind of awful.
Patterico wrote this morning about this President’s knack of bringing out the worst in people. I read this several ways. Trump does tweet things we normally expect of an egg avatar, not a president, and he makes impromptu comments that are like live versions of such tweets. But it almost seems like a culmination of what we’ve all become.
Comfortable behind our expensive phones and laptops, we’ve all become snarky, sassy commentators and pundits — reality stars of our own lives, hosts and guests on our own nightly news show. People with dual degrees in economics and philosophy now get into tweet fights with preppers and club kids. All of these groups knows something the other one doesn’t, but rather than ask questions, we just assume the other one is stupid and call each other names.
We reward bad behavior. We give it clicks, RTs, feature it on YouTube, and reward it with ratings. This is both sides of the political aisle. I know y’all on the Left don’t think you engage in this, but I see you trolling. And everybody feels entitled to do this because it’s high time somebody spoke up against whatever counts as a Commie or a Nazi in these days of relative peace and leisure.
We used to speak up civilly. Now, we have an arsenal of terms: cuck, libtard, rethuglican — and unrepeatable stuff. Because I’m a Christian, I try to think of everything I say online as something I’ll have to explain to God one day. Was I kind? Did I help someone learn something, or was I just trying to win?
I will have to tell Jesus Christ that I did, in fact, try to seem clever rather than gentle at times. That’s the opposite of #Winning.
You may argue that Christianity is the lazy way to develop character. I’d wager you’re right. Believing that the savior who loves me suffered and died for me sure makes me clean up my act faster when some entitled twit looking at their phone instead of the road cuts me off.
If you don’t have a higher power who has guidelines for character (or you do and you totally ignore them, like a lot of folks), another fun way to exemplify principled free speech would be to ask what good will come of your comments. I also employ this technique, and it frequently silences me…at least publicly.
Would it be fun to have a president who exemplifies a confident and measured character, like a sort of terrestrial Captain Picard? Sure. That guy was calm, but knew when to fire photons. Am I wary of presidents who seem all charming and nice, but are actually deceptive and mealy? Oh boy, yes. Did we have to go from one extreme to the other, though?
Do we have to be like that as a people? Must we reward such behavior with positive and negative reinforcement? How would you speak to any of these people in person? How would you address the President if you were cleared for an audience? Do you think calling him an orange buffoon would make him hear your concerns? Does disassociating from your family and friends who voted for him help them to understand your positions?
Did telling off that liberal on Facebook put food on the table or diapers on a baby? Did they change their mind and become enamored of small government principles when you called them a snowflake?
Character is who we are when no one is looking, but it’s also who we are when everybody is looking. From our Facebook walls on up to the President, let’s truly embrace being judged by the content of our character — not our salty quips.
Unless you’re doing comedy. Then by all means, quip away.