Integrity is hard to attain and even harder to maintain. The bringing together all of one’s life into a whole that somehow makes sense can take a while. In the past integrity was a word that held positive connotations and one where the public acclaimed your life as whole and good. But I am sensing in this age of Trump the word is taking on new meaning.
If you spend your whole life in search of greed, power and all of the parts of your life fit together to attain greed and power. In this new world we live in, the public will proclaim you as having integrity. The good is no longer evaluated. It now is based purely on do the parts make a whole. Under this new definition Trump can and is declared a man of integrity. If he does not pay taxes, declares bankruptcy, does not pay some contractors for their work, operates shady businesses it all fits with the hardcore businessman. He is a man of integrity. If he almost comically uses power handshakes, hits his critics back forty times harder, or calls his opponents names or slanders them, he is being the strong business leader. He is a man of integrity. If he gives little to charity, uses his charity to buy paintings of himself, all the while he poops on a gold plated toilet he is demonstrating money is what he is about. He is man of integrity. Under the new definition of integrity they are right. If he treats and talks of women as if they are trophies for accumulation he is a man of integrity. His life fits together. It is of a whole piece.
I am never surprised when new revelations of corruption come out of his White House. Power corrupts. Greed corrupts. That is what the whole of his life has been about. There seems to have been no detours in his younger, middle, or older life from the twin goals of gaining more power and money. He never had a religious phase, community service phase, building an enduring charitable foundation phase, or public service phase; he has always been about the obtaining of wealth and stature.
So my argument is not with whether his life is of a whole cloth. It is. My argument is maybe we should demand to put the good back in integrity. If we did that we would not have to keep lowering the bar for Trump. We would have to recognize who he is and what he is and always has been about. And integrity has never been a part of his life.
We have a new language our elected officials are using. This language hearkens back to the days of fiefdoms. Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, used it when questioned about his use of a state park’s facilities when, because of a budget dispute, it was closed to the public. He stated: if the general populous wants to use the land let them run for governor. Now Christie has only six more months left in his governorship and he is the lowest polling governor in our country, but he has been the leader of this new public attitude. Our elected officials are now to enjoy the spoils of being elected. In the past they were public servants.
Trump has used similar language in saying to people: sorry if you do not like my policies but I won the election and deal with it. In the past we declared we were the president for all people and we said that we try to come up with the best compromise possible between the two sides. But this is no longer in our vocabulary. We are having a return to the survival of the fittest mentality in our politics. This was a philosophy that justified the robber barons running amok with our economy and the creation of monopolies and oppressive working conditions. This stands to reason as we now have a president who is a neo-robber baron.
But Christie and Trump are not the only ones. The quintessential novel justification of robber barons mentality, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, was\is the inspiration for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Maybe this is to be expected when, as the far right says, Christianity is under attack. It is not the far right’s attack on Christmas that is occurring but an attack on Jesus’ example of servanthood. To be last in our new world is not to be the greatest. The aggressive, take no prisoners are our favorite leaders. Thus the fascination with Putin and other wannabe dictators. It is not the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or “It’s a Wonderful Life’s” George Bailey; they are too weak. We are okay with the fact Trump did not pay his contractors and workers. That is a good move if you can get away with it. We are okay that Trump may not have paid taxes; that is good business sense.
I know that it has always been a part of a politician’s habit to make themselves richer while serving the public, but the language and the moral suasion of “you serve the public” has been a guideline to which you must at least pay verbal and occasional homage. Where this new language and survival of the fittest ideology will take us is looking dark. Maybe Christianity can revive the image of the ruler who arrives on an ass (and is not one), and not in a carriage can somehow be revived.
The pure and saintly Ivanka Trump recently pronounced she tries to stay out of politics. Even though she works as special assistant to her father President Trump she wants us to consider her above the fray and pure from the game of politics. This of course is her brand. The good daughter, the good wife, the working woman who has it all and can help you, if not get it all, look as though you have it all. Bu the flaw in her statement is not the declaration of innocence and purity but the fact that she wants us to believe that she, unlike the rest of the world, lives outside of politics. The truth is everything is political. Every choice we make has an element of politics in it. Most people who shop at their local natural food store or Whole Foods are making a political statement about how they want the food supply to be. An emphasis of buying organic, local, and socially conscious companies that treat their employees and suppliers well is a political statement. Where you bank is a political act. Do you bank at a major corporate bank, credit union, local bank? This is a political decision. The decision means you support knowingly or unknowingly global banks that you have no voice in or a credit union where you are a member and have a small voice in the practices of said institution. Where you live is a political decision. Do you choose to live in an integrated downtown neighborhood or gated community with people pretty much like yourself (the exception is those who have no choice of where they live)? Do you drink fair trade coffee, use social awareness companies to invest, avoid Walmart, do not buy sweatshop products, or eat vegetarian? All of these are decisions which have an impact on the body politic and you willingly or unknowingly participate in them. And all of these basic decisions have a political edge to them. So when Ivanka states she is not political I do not think how pure she is. I think she is willingly or unknowingly lying or too naïve for a woman in her position. Her view that she is not involved in politics explains revelations that some of her products are made from sweatshop labor. It explains her childcare policy which she promoted that allowed tax credits for the upper middle class but offered nothing for the classes below. Her politics align her with the haves and show no concrete concern for those with little. Of course if one looks at her father’s presidential policies and business practices this should come as no surprise. She, by saying as she has ‘he is doing a good job,’ has made a political statement. Ivanka: everything is political and your statements and decisions will be judged accordingly. Especially when you who have a position of power your politics will be watched more closely. This is as it should be.