Private peccadilloes, public sin
Being raised Catholic I was taught there were all kinds of transgressions from the unforgivable mortal sin to minor or venial sins - most akin to forgivable white lies. For Latinos minor infractions are encapsulated in one word - peccadilloes - misdemeanors, indiscretions, small sins or fault. Because everyone has their peccadilloes - one looks the other way, after all nobody's perfect.
Leadership demands discernment and reflection, that rare quality that separates the wheat from the chaff. In looking at our leaders and their vices, the question we might ask ourselves is which ones are peccaddillos and which ones are social transgressions and public mortal sins? Which vices indicate a lack of morality or the most sought after quality in leadership - integrity?
Many personal vices fall in the category of peccadilloes - inconvenient, not anything to brag about, maybe even something we should give up, but not necessarily anything that will have lasting consequence or damage anything or anyone of significance.
Our Surgeon General Regina Benjamin needing to lose a few pounds or Obama sneaking a few cigarettes seems to fall here. And since everyone in the public forum knows about these indiscretions, it would probably be more authentic, honest, and even politically savvy to acknowledge these and move on. In some ways, this would resonate with common humanity - we all struggle with our imperfections.
I am not saying that our leaders shouldn't hold themselves to the personal highest standards they can aspire to. But getting bent out of shape because our Surgeon General needs to lose a few pounds or Obama still sneaks a few cigarettes is not going to get American's the health care they need, solve the housing crisis, or create more jobs for the unemployed.
Greed, corruption, and dishonesty, however, are public vices. It's the lying, stealing, and cheating Americans should be concerned about. The corporate pillaging of workers' pensions. The immoral C.E.O. bank bonuses while many people are unemployed. The people who knowingly made bad loans so that millions of people lost their homes. Let's not forget the public bailouts that resulted (once again) in personal gain.
Public vices include the overt manipulation of information that resulted in the U.S. embroiling itself in a harrowing situation in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction, which we know now never existed. Think about the loss of more than 4,000 of our youngest, bravest, and future hope which doesn't even take into account the financial hemorrhaging the war is costing at a time when America should be rebuilding its economy and putting people back to work.
Gordon Brown's temper because it involves allegations of bullying, abusing staff, being demanding and abuse crosses the line from a personal short coming to one that affects the people he works and undermines his effectiveness. John F. Kennedy once described leadership as the ability to stay cool under fire. Gordon's inability to treat people with respect or have the even keel temperament needed to make tough decision during tremulous times is certainly a negative indication of his leadership.
Maybe the real issue, however, is our fascination with tabloid leadership -- the personal peccaddilloes of our leaders - the smoking president. Shouldn't we be more concerned with the smoking gun that indicates that our leaders are breaking the public trust, not being accountable, and not upholding the public good which is the essence of leadership in a democracy?
The comments to this entry are closed.