George Washington, in whose honor today is declared a public holiday in the US, was a stickler for honesty, a trait that has unfortunately become a rare commodity in the political arenas of Washington DC. Although the popular story of the cherry tree and George Washington was said to have never happened, another story, this time fact, illustrates Washington's sterling honesty.
As an adventurous and a curious young boy, Washington nevertheless rode his father's prized colt and his mother's favorite despite his parents' warning not to go near the animal. The colt was spirited and hated Washington on its back. As it bucked and reared, determined to eject Washington from its back, the horse burst a blood vessel and died. Later, Washington admitted to his parents that he killed the horse. Though furious Washinton's mother said: " It is well; but while I regret the loss of my favorite, I rejoice in my son who always speaks the truth."
Aside from his honesty, George Washington was known for detesting partisanship and, instead, upholding unity. In his farewell address to the Union, Washington said:
"The unity of Government....is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.....it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness.... discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts."
Looking at our current fractious political situation, I am inclined to think that George Washington's legacies must have fallen by the wayside. In fact, the cynics among us have been convinced that politics and dishonesty go hand-in-hand. Nevermind if we still wince at politicians' propensity to mislead. What's scary is the possibility that many of us have become immune, or even callous, to political lies, in its varying forms and shades.
A case of political misleading happened at the height of the US presidential election campaign last year. A presidential candidate bombarded the media with a statement about the relocation of car-manufacturing jobs to China, which was allegedly a decision reached with the participation of the candidate's rival. The consequent press release issued by the car manufacturer countering the falsehood of the candidate's claim must have been the death knell on the candidate's bid for the presidency. The ploy only boomeranged on the candidate's face as many realized the attempt at manipulation to garner votes. Sometimes, even in Washington DC, truth ultimately reveals itself.
But truth could take time and only after a huge cost. Many have lost their lives and billions of dollars have been spent by the time findings showed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction -- the supposedly overt reason for US military incursion into that country.
"House of Cards," a current television mini-series about wheeling-and-dealing in Washington DC, may seem like an exaggerated parody of the murky depths politicians will sink to in the name of personal ambition . Nevertheless, the show offers a glimpse of horse trading in Congress and how self- and vested- interests tend to dominate over the collective good.
In an episode, of the mini-series, Congressman and Majority Party Whip Frank Underwood said as a comment to vested interest's attempt to bribe him: "Choosing money over power is a mistake almost everyone makes. Money is the big mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after ten years. Power is that old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who does not see the difference."
A choice between power or money? Whatever happened to unity and honesty? George Washington must be turning in his grave.
|Painting of George Washington in Christchurch, Virginia. Source: fineartamerica.com|
- Ariel Murphy