Monday, October 26, 2020

 Day 8: Character of the country


Epictetus said, “Draw up right now a definite character and identity for yourself, one that you intend to stick to whether you are by yourself or in company.” This passage from the “Encheiridion” has come to mind time and time again, as former Vice President Joe Biden has stated that the 2020 election is about the character of the country. Mr. Biden contends that the character of the person serving as President is some vanguard of the nation’s character. With all due respect, I must disagree.


The character of our nation is a collective reflection of the character of its citizens, not that of a single citizen in the Oval Office. God forbid that should ever be the case. To be sure, a President who reflects the best of America is desirable, but it is unrealistic to expect one person can espouse all the virtues (or vices) of 330 million people.


Our nation’s character is built on individual character, yours and mine. The genius of the Framers recognized this and set up a form of government that was limited in its authority to insert itself into the lives of its citizens. As such, the Framers did not intend to establish a government that would supplant the role and nature of the citizenry. Tragically, that has changed over time. Nevertheless, you and I, kind reader, and the other hundreds of millions of our fellow citizens are the people who form our nation’s character.


In the time between today and Election Day, perform the task set forth by Epictetus. Draw up your character and identity. I will do the same. Then, on that day you fill out your ballot, consider which candidate genuinely displays a character and identity that best aligns with yours. Again, be mindful of each candidate’s actions. Additionally, with regard to Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, for example, do they espouse a consistent character and identity, whether in private or public, or do their characters and identities change, depending on the persons or groups they’re addressing? Consistency (think of Shakespeare and “to thine own self be true) in character and identity, or lack thereof, becomes a key indicator for evaluating the candidates.

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