“Barack Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners, and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.”
– conservative Republican author, TV commentator, and columnist David Brooks, several months before the election
Whatever our response to the 2016 presidential election, we can all agree that during the months leading up to it “integrity, humanity, good manners, and elegance” were rarely present. To be blunt, it was a horror show. And we have received little indication that things will change in the few weeks since.
In some quarters, the simple virtues referenced above were discarded as part of a newly fashionable attack on “political correctness,” an expression used almost exclusively as a slur, a disparaging critique of any attempt to direct our attention to the fact that what one person might see as humorous another might find as hurtful. And so we declared open season on schoolyard taunting, disrespect toward women and religious and ethnic minorities, and even critiques of individuals’ physical characteristics, a particularly heinous and mean-spirited offense.
In a few weeks, Christians throughout the world will celebrate the birth of a certain Galilean who famously enjoined us to do onto others as we would want done onto us. These words, preached by a diversity of religious leaders both before Jesus and long after him, constitute the foundation of civilized life, the social glue that connects us to each other and allows us to get along reasonably well. We ignore them at our peril.
In the coming months and years, men and women of good will must unite against this culture of insult and expose it whenever and wherever it resurfaces. Let this be the mission that unites us, that allows us to come together as men and women of “integrity, humanity, good manners, and elegance.” Our future demands it.