Tag Archives: character

Character: “The Decisive Factor in the Life of an Individual and of Nations Alike.”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I teach ethics, and as I observe the words and actions of President Trump and his closest advisors I see a massive attack on facts, truth, reason, intellectualism, and with them, more importantly, on integrity and character. It is actually very disconcerting to see those in power attempting to re-write facts, history, and even their own statements and promises before our eyes, denying truth, subverting facts, and pretending that with the exception of what they say today, there is no truth.

When Sean Spicer praised the February jobs report, a report that he and the President used refer to as “phony” he was asked if President Trump thought that this report was accurate. He grinned and said “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

But then what can be expected from an administration that when contradicted calls the contractions lies, and those who insist on facts to be liars? It has insisted that alone of Federal Government employees that White House staffers don’t need to follow government ethics rules, and removes them from required ethics training. This goes to the heart of the problem with this administration, it does not care for truth and has long given up, if it ever had it. President Trump’s long history of not being an honest businessman, his numerous adulterous affairs during his marriages, and a list of people that he has cheated that runs into the hundreds with thousands of lawsuits against his business practices should have warned us that he would be the same man that he has always has been, and now he is in a position not only to continue to destroy any hint of his own integrity, but that nations as well, and many of his followers do not seem to give a damn.

Ethics do matter and facts do matter. Steven Covey wrote that “Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.” This is sadly lacking in the current administration, and it will be the death of the Republic. When the American President cannot be trusted to tell the truth and when his administration works to shield themselves from the law there will be reverberations. The moral authority of the American nation is at stake, and that matters more than the power of our economy or the military might of the nation. Once that trust, once that moral authority is eroded, the very foundations of the country are undermined, and quite possibly fatally undermined. As Thomas Paine noted: “Character is much easier kept than recovered.”

A nation founded as ours on the proposition that “all men are created equal” which depends on its leaders and citizens caring about their fidelity to the Constitution must understand that its character is linked to how we live up to those great secular scriptures. Character as Theodore Roosevelt noted is “in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” 

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“Nothing that We Despise”

lawrence12

General Allenby: [leafing through Lawrence’s dossier] “Undisciplined… unpunctual… untidy. Knowledge of music… knowledge of literature… knowledge of… knowledge of… you’re an interesting man there’s no doubt about it.” 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

As I noted yesterday I have been in a more reflective mood thinking about so many things, and some of my own inner conflicts and doubts. When I do that I tend to turn to history and muse about the lives of other people who seem to have shared to some degree my struggles.

Character is a terrible thing to judge. Mostly because those doing the judging also suffer from flaws in their own character and truthfully I don’t think that any of us are exempt from doing this at least sometimes. Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted: “Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves.” I think is somewhat freeing to realize that.

Yet somehow the temptation is for us to stand as judge, jury and character executioner on those that we find wanting. As a culture we like tearing down those that we at one time built up, in fact we have industries that exist in order to build up and then destroy people.

It is a rather perverse proclivity that we have as human beings, especially if we can find some kind of religious justification for it.

I think that is part of the complexity of the human condition. As a historian I find that the most exalted heroes, men and women of often great courage both moral and physical, intellect, creativity, humanity and even compassion have feet of clay.

I find that I am attracted to those characters who find themselves off the beaten track. Visionaries often at odds with their superiors, institutions, and sometimes their faith and traditions. Men and women who discovered in themselves visions for what might be and pursued those visions, sometimes at the costs of their families, friends, and in quite a few cases their lives.

Throughout my studies I have been attracted to men as diverse as Peter the Apostle, Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas, T.E. Lawrence, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Erwin Rommel, Admiral Horatio Nelson, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Dwight D Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Jackie Robinson, Teresa of Avila, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Emir Feisal Hussein of the Arab Revolt. All had flaws and the list could go on and on and on.

Some of these men and women, saints and sinners alike had fits of temper and violence, others sexual escapades, mistresses, affairs, greed, avarice, and a host of other unseemly characteristics.  Some of them stretched law and morality in their quest to achieve their goals. But all are considered great men and women.

Feet of clay. Who doesn’t have them? But then I think that I would rather have feet of clay than a heart of stone, unchallenged mind, or a lack of courage to do the right thing even when it does not directly benefit me.

I love the cinema classic Lawrence of Arabia. Peter O’Toole plays Lawrence in a most remarkable manner, showing his brilliance, courage, diplomatic ability and understanding of the Arabs with whom he served.

There are many people, leaders and others that we encounter in life or that we study. Even the best of the best are flawed and there is no such thing as a Saint who never sinned. But we love destroying them and their memory when to our “surprise” when we find that their hagiographers built them into an idol.

I am a great believer in redemption and the weight of the whole of a person’s life. Thus I try to put the flaws as they are called in perspective and their impact both positive and negative in history. Studying in this way gives me a greater perspective on what it is to be human and to place my own clay feet in appropriate perspective.

As Lawrence said: “Immorality, I know. Immortality, I cannot judge.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Feet of Clay of the Best and Brightest

lawrence-3

General Allenby: [leafing through Lawrence’s dossier] “Undisciplined… unpunctual… untidy. Knowledge of music… knowledge of literature… knowledge of… knowledge of… you’re an interesting man there’s no doubt about it.” 

Character is a terrible thing to judge. Mostly because those doing the judging also suffer from flaws in their own character and truthfully I don’t think that any of us are exempt from doing this at least sometimes. Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted: “Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves.” I think is is somewhat freeing to realize that.

Yet somehow the temptation is for us to stand as judge, jury and character executioner on those that we find wanting. As a culture we like tearing down those that we at one time built up, in fact we have industries that exist in order to build up and then destroy people.

It is a rather perverse proclivity that we have as human beings, especially if we can find some kind of religious justification for it.

I think that is part of the complexity of the human condition. As a historian I find that the most exalted heroes, men and women of often great courage both moral and physical, intellect, creativity, humanity and even compassion have feet of clay.

I find that I am attracted to those characters who find themselves off the beaten track. Visionaries often at odds with their superiors, institutions, and sometimes their faith and traditions. Men and women who discovered in themselves visions for what might be and pursued those visions, sometimes at the costs of their families, friends, and in quite a few cases their lives.

Throughout my studies I have been attracted to men as diverse as Peter the Apostle, Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas, T.E. Lawrence, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Erwin Rommel, Admiral Horatio Nelson, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Dwight D Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Jackie Robinson, Teresa of Avila, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Emir Feisal Hussein of the Arab Revolt. All had flaws and the list could go on and on and on.

Some of these men and women, saints and sinners alike had fits of temper and violence, others sexual escapades, mistresses, affairs, greed, avarice, and a host of other unseemly characteristics.  Some of them stretched law and morality in their quest to achieve their goals. But all are considered great men and women.

Feet of clay. Who doesn’t have them? But them I think that I would rather have feet of clay than a heart of stone, an an unchallenged mind, or a lack of courage to do the right thing even when it does not directly benefit me.

I love the cinema classic Lawrence of Arabia. Peter O’Toole plays Lawrence in a most remarkable manner, showing his brilliance, courage, diplomatic ability and understanding of the Arabs with whom he served.

There are many people, leaders and others that we encounter in life or that we study. Even the best of the best are flawed and there is no such thing as a Saint who never sinned. But we love destroying them and their memory when to our “surprise” when we find that their hagiographers built them into an idol.

I am a great believer in redemption and the weight of the whole of a person’s life. Thus I try to put the flaws as they are called in perspective and their impact both positive and negative in history. Studying in this way gives me a greater perspective on what it is to be human and to place my own clay feet in appropriate perspective.

As Lawrence said: “Immorality, I know. Immortality, I cannot judge.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Never Forget: National POW-MIA Recognition Day September 21st 2012

Over 80,000 American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who answered the call to the nation’s colors are still listed as Missing in Action. Currently there is one known Prisoner of War, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl being held by Taliban Forces in Afghanistan.

Sht Bowe Bergdahl in Taliban captivity

Most of these men and women served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They went to war, many as conscripts and never came home. For many Americans they are not even a memory. We are so distanced from the concept of national service or sacrifice and these wars are so far in the past that most people have no concept unless they are closely connected to a military family that still looks at an empty place at a table and has not had the closure of knowing that their relative is alive or dead. They have memories of the day that someone told them that their loved one was missing in action or a prisoner of our enemies.

Bataan Death March

The wait endured by these families is unimaginable to most people. For those known to be POWs the wait is tempered by the knowledge that their loved on is still alive and might return. For the relatives of the missing, there is only hope that their loved one is alive. For most this is not the case, especially as the time between when they went missing and the present day grows ever longer.

Captain James Stockdale (2nd from left) at the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

For those that experienced being a Prisoner of War the wait is one marked by isolation, constant enemy propaganda and the fear that they might not ever their their loved ones or home again. Most have endured those hardships and have survived torture at the hands of their captors. Vice Admiral James Stockdale who was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for over seven and a half years. After his release he said something that I have always thought both remarkable and inspirational and representative of many of those who endured captivity: “The test of character is not ‘hanging in’ when you expect light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty, and persistence of example when you know no light is coming.”

Norman Eidsmoe

When I was a kid and my dad was in the Navy I went to school with the children of a Navy pilot, LCDR Norman Eidsmoe. Eidsmoe went missing on a night bombing mission over North Vietnam on January 26th 1968. Two of his sons would serve as aviators in the Navy or Marine Corps and in 1997 his remains,were recovered. On December 9th 1999 his remains as well as those of his bombardier-navigator LT Michael Dunn were positively identified by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).

Members of the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command near Dong Hoi Vietnam in 2006

For the Eidsmoe’s and the Dunn’s their long wait ended, but for tens of thousands of others the wait continues. Each day the men and women of the JPAC work around the world in to track down, recover and identify the missing. Working in the jungles of Southeast Asia, remote Pacific Islands and the battlefields of Europe and North Africa these men and women labor, often with our former enemies to locate, recover and identify our missing heroes. Almost every month the survivors and descendants of a MIA are notified that the remains of their loved one have been identified bringing needed closure to these families.

As this night ends let us not forget those who are still missing or held captive and those that currently serve in harm’s way.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Wild Finish to a Wild Card Weekend: Steelers “Tebowed”

Tim Tebow passing to Demaryius Thomas (Photo Jeff Gross Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the New England Patriots in the AFC Division playoff game next Sunday…well that was what I heard all this week. The Steelers though hobbled by key injuries on their offense and defensive were nine point favorites to defeat the Denver Broncos and move on in the playoffs.  That did not happen. Since i listen to and watch a great amount of sports radio and television I can say that if there were “experts” out there picking the Broncos to win this game they were not saying so with any conviction. The best that I heard was that the Broncos would likely cover the point spread but not win.  That was even the talk before the game today.

And why not? Who could blame the experts? The Steelers were 12-4 during the regular season. The Broncos had lost their last three games and had not scored a touchdown in their last 22 offensive drives. The magic seemed to have disappeared for Tim Tebow, the defense was porous and a week ago the Broncos just looked bad against he Chiefs. They won the AFC West because the Oakland Raiders lost their final game against the hapless San Diego Chargers looking every bit as bad as the Broncos.

Yes the Steelers were banged up but certainly Tim Tebow stood no chance against their top ranked defense.  That was the line.  Tebow was history and had every possibility of being replaced by backup QB Brady Quinn during game if the Broncos fell behind according to some.

I didn’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t care for the Steelers and because I grew up with the Raiders really am not a Broncos fan. But given the choice I would root for the Broncos something that goes back to Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception against the Raiders back in December of 1972 but I don’t hold grudges, I did root for the Steelers whenever they played the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.

However things did not play to the script of the experts.  I am not a big Tebow fan and don’t believe that he is at the same level as Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. That being said I do believe that Tebow has character and is a leader who can win in the most unlikely circumstances.  I also think that the mean spirited and cynical attacks on his faith are uncalled for and classless and that politicians that compare themselves to him are are even worse than Tebow’s most mean spirited critics.

Today Tebow and the Broncos offense dominated the Steelers defense and the Broncos defensive unit put the hit on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger sacking him 5 times and intercepting him once.  Tebow who had struggled terribly over the past few weeks came though in a big way. He threw for 316 yards and ran for another 50 while throwing two touchdowns and rushing for another without committing the turnovers that plagued him in the last three games of the season.

After giving up two first quarter field goals the Broncos scored 20 points in just under 7 minutes during the 2nd quarter to lead the game 20-6 at the half.  The Steelers tied the game at 23 with 3:48 left in the game sending it into overtime.

The overtime was the first played under the new sudden death rules but those rules became irrelevant on the first play of overtime when the Tebow hit WR Demaryius Thomas on a 80 yard pass scoring 11 seconds into the overtime an NFL record.

It was a stunning play which electrified the Broncos fans and even owner John Elway who appeared exuberant on the sidelines.  The Steelers were stunned. Their season was not supposed to end in Denver.

Tim Tebow and the Broncos now travel to Foxboro to play Tom Brady and the powerful New England Patriots. The Patriots are already big favorites and are certainly the best team in the AFC.  They have been rolling over their opponents even after giving up big leads early.  I do expect that the miraculous season of Tim Tebow and the Broncos ends this week but if there is a quarterback and team that could upset the Pats in Foxboro it is Tim Tebow and the Broncos.  If they keep the game close it could be a classic.

In other playoff action the New York Giants dominated the Atlanta Falcons 28-2, the Houston Texans won their first playoff game in franchise history defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 after trailing 10-7 at the half and the New Orleans Saints defeated the Detroit Lions 45-28.

Demaryius Thomas stiff arms Ike Taylor on the way to the winning touchdown (Photo  Doug Pensinger Getty Images)

As for Broncos and Tim Tebow the season is the stuff that legends are made of and Tebow, well in my humble opinion he is going to become a legend in the NFL. It won’t be because he is or ever will be the best passer in the game, but it will be because of his athleticism, character and leadership abilities.  Of course I could be wrong but there is something special about him and I think that 10 years from now people will still be scratching their heads and wondering how he does what he does.

As for me, I’m cheering for my 49ers and they will only see the Broncos if they meet in the Super Bowl.

It will be interesting.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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