I Found This Cool Vintage Thing Called… Dignity.

I got a little peek into a political time capsule when we moved into our house a few years ago, which we bought from the original owners. They left several old bins, tubes, and flyers hidden in crannies around the house, and one day we found old flyer for a local mayor from the 1970’s hidden in one of the kitchen drawers. Although parts of the page are missing, you can see how crazily our political scene has changed since then.

full sheet political - high res

This “Profile of a Mayor” listed absolutely no voting record, resume, accomplishments, or views on controversial topics. Instead, it lists only six character qualities: Dignified, Civic Minded, Judicious, Conciliatory, Equitable, and Reliable.

half sheet political - high res

Can you even imagine a world in which those could be the top qualifications for a candidate??

We live in the age of crass jokes, witty remarks, and slimy politicians, and unfortunately I don’t ever even hear words like these anymore. Take “conciliatory”, for example. When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I really like her – she’s so conciliatory.” No? Try it – no one will have a clue what you’re saying.

Here’s the definition:

  1. to overcome the distrust or hostility of; placate; win over: to conciliate an angry competitor.
  2. to win or gain (goodwill, regard, or favor).
  3. to make compatible; reconcile.

Whoa. Wouldn’t that be cool? A politician who actually overcame distrust and hostility and instead worked towards reconciling differences? I understand that sometimes political differences look like chasms – but what if they could be handled in a conciliatory way? Or with dignity instead of cutting remarks and ad hominem attacks?

The flyer contains quotes like:

Our mayor needs to arbitrate and negotiate with many different groups in [our town] and outside. His approach is that of a peacemaker and purveyor of the positive.

And:

He must be recognized as a sounding board, and listen for all the ideas of the community. He must be at home with the big and the small.

And:

Our Mayor must possess […] in his actions the dignity of office.

Dignity. Now that’s something we aren’t seeing much of these days.

Well, guess what? Joe Freeman’s “character-only” platform worked – he got elected!

Our system has changed just a teensy bit since the 70’s, however. Now we have party lines, voting records, YouTube clips, faux pas, and Tonight Show appearances that we judge our candidates on. Their character – whether they genuinely do listen to the ideas of the community, are at home with “the big and the small” people, and are known as a peacemaker – are not enough to get them elected anymore. And please hear me… I’m not saying that we should only judge candidates on those traits – policy is still rather important, too! I don’t just want to hire a sweet, lovable, reliable but clueless guy (or gal!).

But what if traits like dignity, judiciousness, and equity are just as important – and sometimes even more important – as their platform and the way they present themselves?

We can rule out a few candidates during this primary election that we can be pretty sure do not have any of these traits. Donald Trump, in particular, has built his whole persona around being the opposite of dignified or conciliatory.

These traits do still exist, though. They are the kind of thing that cause you to really trust and look up to someone. The kind of thing that make you believe that there is still hope for the world – or at least for the neighborhoods where these traits are active. The kind of thing that make Upworthy videos go viral.

So I am daring to – maybe naively – hope that some of the candidates in the upcoming election might actually be Civic Minded, Conciliatory, Judicious, Equitable, and/or Reliable. The more the better! I just have this suspicion that these characteristics go way beyond personality – that they are deeper than friendliness or persuasiveness or a winsome smile – and that they may actually be the bedrock on which policy can rest. And that without them… no matter the policies… grand ideas and big words go floating away like smoke.

Basically… I just wouldn’t mind keeping dignity around a little while longer. It may be a rare vintage trait – and maybe not everyone notices its value anymore – but I think it’s time we brought it back like it’s “in” again!


10/20/16 Update:

I wrote this post during the primary elections. Since then, the unthinkable happened… And not only do we now have one VERY undignified Republican candidate, we also have a hot mess of “discussions” going on around social media as we try to hammer out how to play the hand we’ve been dealt.

I would like to propose that in the wake of losing the chance to have dignified and conciliatory presidential debates (and perhaps candidates) this election season, that we take it upon ourselves to be “peacemakers and purveyors of the positive.”

Let’s work to overcome the distrust or hostility of any angry competitors we may encounter… online or at work or in our families. Let’s work to be compatible, to reconcile with one another, and not to stoop to attacking one another.

I have lots of friends on both sides of the political fence, and I have heard the most ridiculous comments from each side about about “the other side.” Please believe me… neither Democrats nor Republicans are trying to destroy our country. We all want prosperity, peace, and justice. We may go about getting those things in vastly different ways, and we may disagree on what those words mean in some instances – but that doesn’t mean that any of us want our country to self-destruct. For heaven’s sake…. we all live here together. 

We do the work of destroying our country when we destroy each other. So let’s make like the 70’s and chill out a little. Bring back dignity and keep it civil, people. 

Peace.

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