Sunday, October 05, 2008

Elections and the Abandonment of Humility

I have been enjoying the lead-up to the presidential election. I'm naturally competitive and so I love to argue about policies and personalities. Most of those arguments happen only in my head with imaginary foes - where I naturally always win. But if there's one thing I hate about elections it's that morality goes right out the door. I'm not talking about "moral issues," I'm talking about the morality of the candidates themselves. Now lots has been said about negative campaigning and I hardly think I have much to contribute there. I want to discuss the deprication of humility in the campaign.

Now, in some ways, we don't expect or want the president to be humble. He (or she) should be the best person in the nation for the job and should know how to lead the country. The president needs to show confidence in decisions in order to bring together the country. For example, when John McCain said that the economy is not his strong suit, I took that to be a mark against him. The president should be strong in areas where he will be expected to make important decisions.

But a little humility is warranted. And it's not always respected in the election. When Barack Obama was asked when he thought a human life began, he responded that it was above his pay grade. Now, as one who thinks that abortion is wrong, I can still respect that he is willing to say that his opinion does not decide the matter. At the very least, I saw Obama being willing to admit his limits, that the president does not decide these matters. (As a reminder, Roe v Wade was decided not upon when life began but on medical privacy - )

The fact is that a lack of humility has been present throughout both campaigns. McCain said that experience is of the utmost importance in the presidential campaign then selects a vice-presidential candidate with almost no experience and then has the audacity to call her experienced. Obama made the argument that he would bring change to Washington then selects an experienced Washington insider, coloring him as one who would shake up Washington.

The problem is bipartisan. But it's not a Washington problem. It's an American problem and a people problem. We've lost our faith in humility as a core value in being human. We excuse it in ourselves and idolize the narcissist, forgetting how tough it is to actually deal with people who are so self-absorbed. We present ourselves under the guise of a mask in order to keep people from knowing our flaws. And when we see someone else exposed, we pounce on the opportunity to strengthen our image by attacking their deficits, selfishly ignoring our own shortcomings.

We should learn to expect humanity from our leaders, from our fellows, and from ourselves. We should not kid ourselves and believe that we are better than others. We should expect occasional failure and admire those who are willing to admit it. I hope your friends look past your occasional poor decisions and I hope that you are willing to look past the occasional poor decisions of these presidential candidates. The real reason they have abandoned humility is because we have abandoned it. Let's remember how important it is by remembering how important it was to Jesus - the divine man who said that his creation was more important than he was and gave up his life to that end.