I was reading a diary on DKos from “Sgt Major Meyers” on the subject of honor. It gave me an understanding of a word we often hear, but typically gloss over – an understanding from a career military perspective:

Throughout my life growing up in a military family and in my military career, one predominate trait or quality was emphasized and driven home by both my family and every leader I have ever met. That trait or quality was honor. Just to refresh your memory the dictionary defines honor as: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions – a man of honor.

From the time I had what I believe was probably my very first logical thought about the subject I do not believe that there was ever any doubt in my mind of what the meaning of honor was, nor was there ever any doubt of what actions honor required. There was a second thing that I never had any doubt about, and that was that once one’s honor was compromised it was a permanent and oft never fading blemish. I know this from personal experience and from my own personal failures against which I struggle to this very day. I point this out because I believe that even the most honorable and well intentioned people with the most hard earned sense of honor can fail and that they can be guilty of being dishonorable, and I believe that this has happened in the presidential race.

This is what Obama should challenge McCain on – his honor, or lack thereof.

A parallel challenge could be made to Sarah Palin, and to her inch-deep Christianity, along the same lines, but this is a much more difficult tack in the current climate, with the current players. And Sarah, like George Bush, is a much more devious and skilled manipulator, able to turn back any such attack with ease.

Most of us during these last few days are once again, awakening to the sad realization that good ideas and good character are not enough to win an election – otherwise we’d probably be wrapping up the final years of the Gore Administration. Lying and bullying behavior has to be confronted and effectively rebuffed. If it isn’t, no one will respect Obama, no matter how great his ideas or his character.

For someone as high minded as Obama, and who is operating with a distinct handicap – “Jackie Robinson rules” – this is his greatest challenge: to move past “merely” being able to bring people together over good ideas, and to boldly confront the white establishment about its shameful lack of honor, and to make it stick. This is the next level, the next step in his growth as a leader and as a human being. And I think the Republicans know this – they know they’re dealing with a squeaky clean class nerd, who, for many reasons has difficulty fighting them effectively. They found his weakness.

I’m reminded of what it was like in high school to be a nerd. I may have been good at various scholastic subjects, but in the larger scheme of things, the jocks ruled. Had I known then what I know today, I never would have tolerated the bullying and abusive behavior of these jealous boors. And as Kurt Vonnegut so aptly pointed out, life is nothing but high school:

When you get to be our age, you all of a sudden realize you are being ruled by people you went to high school with. You all of a sudden catch on that life is nothing BUT high school. You make a fool of yourself in high school, then go to college to learn how you should have acted in high school, then you get into real life and that turns out to be high school again – class officers, cheerleaders, and all.

“Honor” and “Shame” are emotionally laden words, that Republicans, including John McCain are sensitive to, even if they don’t fully get their meanings. They’re powerful weapons waiting to be used, to turn back the far right’s wall of bullshit. Will Obama understand the challenge he faces right now, that good ideas and good character aren’t enough by themselves to get through this high school kind of world we’re in?

11 thoughts on “Honor

  1. McCain didn’t have a definition of honor when asked.
    He was either unfamiliar with the concept, or he was worried it was a trick question.

  2. I think you are seriously underestimating Obama and his political instincts.

    I think you have an idea of how this race should be run, an idea that Obama is not adhering to, and you thus think he’s failing.

    I think he’s got his own plan, and he’s sticking with it. Whether or not it turns out to be effective enough to get him elected is definitely a point of argument, but this idea that he’s nothing but a “high-minded” “squeaky clean class nerd” who doesn’t know how to fight back against bullies is a fundamental misunderstanding of who he is and what he’s trying to do.

    He plays the long game, always. McCain, on the other hand, is a master of the short game. McCain knows how to pull off brilliant stop-gaps, like Palin … Obama knows how to take the game to the end.

    Just keep in mind that he rose out of Chicago politics, the snake pit that it is, with his honor and integrity intact and with friends and allies in almost all sectors of government … and then went on to beat the Clinton machine for the nomination. I think the man knows what he’s doing.


  3. McCain chipped away at his honor when he dumped his first wife. I’m not making a moral judgment of the man,but I just don’t think that adultery is compatible with honor. Seems to me that in order for McCain to make the transition (like it has been reported) from the marriage bed (undefiled) to Cindy’s bed, that lying, deceit, and unbridled lust would have had to occur.
    And what about that archaic virtue called fidelity..doesn’t that have some bearing on honor?

    Maybe we should break down and compartmentalize honor so it’s not so encompassing and restrictive… this way McCain can tout his past military honor and not be judged by his current rendition of honor.

  4. I don’t know about honor…..
    All I know is that when you step into the ring you should be ready to fight. That means taking punches as well as delivering them. Palin is in the ring to punch and pulled out so as not to receive punches, I even heard coworker says ‘you can’t treat a woman ‘ like that. I never saw a disinclination to not treat Hillary or Chelsea for that matter in egregiously slimey ways. Palin is touted as the super ‘gal’ who shoots a moose for breakfast everyday and is too weak to tolerate words not even uttered about herself. It is the same ole we can shoot our mouths off and try to gag your response tactic we have seen so many years- at least Obama the nerd is actually going on tv and saying ‘ they are using this tactic and that tactic and the media is actually admitting they are lying. We’ve got 60 days to get this done and I do not know if we will ever get out of high school or third grade for that matter.

  5. It’s the great white war hero and God’s cheerleader against the black dude from Chicago, sadly, most of our voting brothers and sisters care more about race,religion, sports, the stock market, American Idol, and People Magazine.
    Who do you REALLY think they will vote for.
    We are screwed, maybe just one more Republican Administration will wake up the brain dead die hards, but I doubt it.
    God, I’m F’in grumpy tonight……….
    I’m watching McCain on MSNBC right now, he just mentioned the green card carrying members of the military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to accelerate their path to citizenship, this is some screwed-up stuff folks….

  6. I agree with Ian. I think Obama can beat McCain. He’s doing better at fighting back and keeping his dignity. The bad guys in our election scenario are the so-called MSM. They publish the propaganda trivia of the Republicans without blinking an eye. As far as I am concerned the MSM has become another Faux News. The second factor is how very stupid the average American has become. I just hope the stupids forget to vote.

  7. We are screwed, maybe just one more Republican Administration will wake up the brain dead die hards, but I doubt it.

    Erinyes… You’re right, the brain dead die hards will never wake up, but they don’t constitute the majority. What we’re seeing is an exaggerated face to their power, and they don’t have the power to deliver like they claim they have. I assume when you refer to the brain dead you mean primarily the religious right. My belief is that in both of Bush’s elections the religious right claimed a victory that wasn’t of their making, because there is really no way to prove or disprove their claims, and they knew their claims would go unchallenged.

    I’m not happy that McCain tapped into and unleashed an army of lemmings in order to win the presidency. and my faith in the American people to make wise decisions has been dampened since 2004, but with the ongoing disaster of Iraq and the significant cracks in our economy…I really believe people will be paying closer attention this time around. They will see McCain’s and Palin’s emptiness and deceptions.

  8. Ian (#2) – I hope you’re right. I admit I’ve read a lot of diaries lately – everyone and their brother – telling Obama what to do – and yes, this is one more installment from someone with no particular expertise, in that crowded genre. But sadly, I’ve seen this movie before (Dukakis in ’88, Al Gore ’00, Kerry ’04), and the ending really sucks.

    There is something not-quite-strong-enough in Obama’s responses to the shit that’s flying, that’s got me and everyone else worried, because it looks a lot like these movies we’ve seen before. With respect to Obama’s formidable political skills – we’ve all seen fantastic baseball teams rise up to play in the World Series – only to get knocked out by an even more fantastic opponent. I’m just not as trusting as you are in this regard. I’ve seen way too many opportunities – to go on offense – missed – that makes me question his political skills.

    s (#1) – you are correct (oops).

  9. Oh, speaking of high school. My high school ring was inscribed with the words truth and honor on opposite sides of the stone setting. Two concepts that the ring’s designer thought would be of value to carry with us throughout life..I wonder what Palin and McCain’s high schools rings were adorned with?..I’ll bet it wasn’t truth or honor!

  10. Swami, I am not referring to the religious right per se as brain dead, I’m talking about the general population who take what the MSM dish as fact at face value. As I type this, James Carville is on MSNBC discussing Sarah Palin’s interview with Charlie Gibson. How in the hell can any rational person listen to Palin and agree with her views? That’s easy, ignorance and paranoia Observing the public’s reaction to Palin I’m wondering if we’ve turned into a modern day Sparta ( with it or on it ), or more like a new Soviet Union where women are given medals for bearing children who will serve the collective.
    Listening to NPR on the way home yesterday, the topics were the bail out of Freddy Mac and Fannie May, the impending collapse of Wa MU and Leaman Bros, and Obama VS McCain
    with a group of people divided equally along racial lines, white/ black
    The majority of people supported the candidates of their own race.
    The reasons given by the white folks were Obama’s lack of “executive” experience , and his secret Muslim backround ( once a Muslim, always a Muslim).
    We are on the threshold of yet another perfect storm; the impending domestic financial melt-down, a widening war in Afghanistan/Pakistan, growing tension between Pakistan and India ( two nuclear rivals), growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia, NATO pushing it’s presence to Russia’s borders, the formation of the SCO to counter America’s growing belligerence, and this crazy-assed impending election campaign which divides us along race, religion, and ideology. It appears we have met the enemy, and he is us……….

  11. A woman I consider very wise (and she had the years, psychological training, and emotional battle scars to easily earn that appellation) once told me: “There are only two ways to respond to a bully. You can either walk away, or you can hit him hard in the nose. Nothing else works.” In the ~15 years since I was told that, I’ve not seen a counterexample. The wisdom is in knowing which one to do, given the situation at hand, and that can be a difficult and/or nuanced choice. But in this campaign the better choice is crystal clear. Obama folks should be made to understand this most fundamental of principles of bully nature, or they will indeed lose this election, stunning as that very concept might be.

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