H. L. Mencken was a journalist, scholar, satirist, and provocateur. His cynicism toward institutional religion and many cultural norms was a put-off to many. Yet, he exposed much hypocrisy and often bore witness to truth in biting sarcasm.
Here is an example of Mencken’s biting critique of politicians: “It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.”
Or this one: “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”
Common sense, common honesty, and common decency! Don’t we have the right to expect these from our leaders?
Or, is our collective character so compromised that we simply get the leaders we deserve?
I fear that the coarseness of our public discourse, widespread acceptance of dishonesty, normalization of crudeness, endorsement of cruelty, and callousness toward the suffering of others are symptomatic of our blighted collective character.
Let’s hold on to a vision and expectation of personal and collective honesty and common decency! And, let’s demand and practice integrity and compassion from ourselves and those we select as leaders.