I've been reading several books and essays by and about leaders during the progressive/new deal era (late 1800's-mid 1900s).
There are no perfect leaders; all men are flawed. All men are somewhat damned by their contemporary culturally bound ethical and moral ignorance. All men that might be looked back on as heroic, were also craven in their own way. They often held passive common beliefs of their time, that we, looking back on, accuse as deplorable.
But the contrast between what qualities of character those men had, with our current President and the mass exodus of "allegedly accused" leaders, is absolutely reprehensible.
This is not a unique problem. It has been faced countless time before, and will be faced again. It is not important to recognize that "this age is shameful!" That is a worthless observation. But in recognizing this, we should be spurred to further recognize in what small (and often large) ways we ourselves are shameful. We should be strong enough to recognize this in ourselves, and likewise challenge those to our left and to our right. We should be in community with those who can stomach the standard then required.
Be cautious of those why cry "Armageddon!" They rarely yield anything of worth. If you read historical commentary you will always find this consistent message: that today is far worse than yesterday, and the end is neigh. Even so, our energy and bluster ought to be spent towards improvement.
I occasionally ignore or tire of the civic weight we take for granted. Selfishly reaping the fruits of the past while shuffling along muttering “politics are all rubbish!”. We are gravely implicated in the implicit responsibilities of being a citizen of this great nation. It is not great for its legacy, for its legacy is not just that of liberty and justice, but also marred with genocide and oppression. This nation is great because it still projects the tatters of potential. It is not yet a fallen empire, though the signs have long been pointing there. This nation is great insofar as she is worn by honorable and virtuous men and woman.
When holding a standard of virtue up to our leaders, we should at once share in the equality of this responsibility. Acknowledging our own failures and growing in wisdom. While a man deserves mercy, a representative of the people does not. In this role they should be scrutinized with keen eye and sharp blade. The mistakes of men can be forgiven, but consequence and justice should be clothing of public office.
Though we often do not consider this truth, we have all submitted to varying degrees to a social contract. We should take civic duty seriously, from our responsibility for our neighbor, to our responsibility for our President.
Do not despair at our current state, that is a lazy defeat. Do not regurgitate the political thoughts and ideas of political commentators. Begin a slow education. Steep yourself in the monumental characters of our past. Wrestle with issues, listen to sound arguments. Be at once firm in conclusion, yet willing to consider wisdom. Do not add to the noise. Be people of conviction and action. Be people of iteration, walking and growing in stride.
This will of course end with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“Our country calls not for the life of ease, but for the life of strenuous endeavor. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods.”
- Theodore Roosevelt