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Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :

Doesnít character count for anything?

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry

Back when I was a cop, many years ago, we had an ordinance that allowed us to put folks in jail for ďassociation with known characters.Ē This basically meant that if you were out running around with burglars, robbers, dope dealers, prostitutes and whatever you were subject to being arrested yourself. Iím sure that ordinance has long since been overturned and is no longer on the books, but it was there for a reason and is useful for my column this week.

What they were trying to enforce was the fact that if you were always in the company of bad guys, then there must be something wrong with you as well. The old lie down with dogs and get up with fleas analogy. You were judged by the quality of your friends. It was simple.

Today we are in the midst of a great race for the position of President of the United States of America. Probably the most powerful position on our planet. We have (at this point) three candidates trying to make their way to November in the hopes one of them will be elected.

All three have had their character examined in the past several months. Iím certain all three will undergo much more scrutiny before this is all over. Politics is a very physical game and not for the faint of heart.

What is surprising to me is the number of citizens out here who appear on the news each night and shrug off character flaws as if they were nothing. These people donít appear to be concerned over allegations about the candidates. No matter if the information is verified or not. They allege that Ďthese things are privateí and donít matter to them.

The man on the street also seems to turn a blind eye when it comes to the friends and associates of the candidates.

Doesnít character count for anything?

Are we so blasť and foolish that we can convince ourselves that the people who are close friends of any publicly elected official , no matter at what level, do not exercise some degree of influence over the elected official? Do you think that people who donate millions of dollars to someoneís campaign do so out of the purity of their heart without ever wanting something in return?

I donít think so.

Arenít we known by the company we keep? As someone once wisely saidÖĒShow me a manís friends and Iíll show you the man.Ē I have to believe that the talking heads we see each night on the news choose to ignore the real concerns a lot of us have about the quality and character of the candidates running for public office. None of us want crooks in any position to exert authority over us, nor do we want persons of low moral character to run our nation. In my mind the person behind the scenes very much controls the visible person in any move that he or she makes, or will make in the future.

We ask, no a better word is demand, character in our police officers and church officials. If this is important, and it is, then why isnít character important in political races as well? How can we elect judges whose campaigns are funded by the very attorneys and law firms whose cases will soon appear in those courts? How can we allow lobbyists to control pieces of legislation which results in laws that have grave effects upon all of us?

Character is defined as the things you do when no one is around to see. So, how can a lack of character be called Ďprivateí when we are trying to choose someone who has the ability in their hands to lead us into nuclear war or economic chaos? How can someoneís personal life be kept separate and secret when you are representing an entire nation of 300 million persons? Donít your actions speak volumes about your beliefs and judgment? Are we to blindly accept only your public side without being concerned over your personal side as well as the people you associate with?

If you have no character in the small things, how will you react to the big things?

President of the United States, in my mind, is a very big thing.

Character counts, donít forget it.

© Peary Perry
Letters From North America

April 24, 2008 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com

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