There is one quality the two candidates running for President of the United States have in common: their wealth.
In a sense that makes them both elites, the establishment, those who have arrived. Their families are protected, safe. They have guards and private planes, and cloistered homes and schools.
There are differences between the candidates, of course. She is smooth, and he is rough. She sells political access, and he sells commercial products. She is a public servant, and he is a tradesman. She is sophisticated, and he is boorish. Her image, some say, is presidential. His image, some say, is not.
We Americans have come a long way since World War II. Madison Avenue minds have remade our priorities, have convinced us that image is far more important than substance. We have grown used to screens informing our desires, sculpting our consciences. Like Pavlov’s dog, we react, prompted and programmed. It is a Brave New World.
And yet we think we are choosing. Are we choosing or reacting? Are we educated voters, choosing with our minds rather than our emotions?
“Things are not always as they appear… Appearances can be deceiving… Truth is stranger than fiction.” These phrases ring in our memory, far away, like warning bells.
We support our educated choices with governmental foundations established over two centuries ago. We have a rule of law, a constitution, that overrules image and sophistication, shining light upon slipshod logic and reining in emotion. Law strikes to the heart of the matter, judging the act not the image. Bribery. Perjury. Treason. These are not images or appearances. These are harmful acts done to innocent people, to our republic, to you and me, to every one of us.
But we like nice. We like sweetness and light. We like noble words even if untrue or fatal to the body politic. A chicken in every pot. College loans forgiven. Borders thrown open. Gun control to end terrorism. We want to welcome all, legal and illegal. We want free college education for all. We don’t want to offend. We want to believe these promises for we want to be a people that can do these things. We want to be good. We care about one another.
And yet when a mother takes her sick child to the doctor, does she want the truth, or nice words confirming her illusion he isn’t sick at all? Just so, a sick nation must search its soul to root out tumors and destroy infection. A sick nation must seek the truth about itself, must practice tough love.
Without equality before the law, we are nothing. For voters to whitewash criminal activity, especially on the part of a presidential candidate, is suicidal. Candidates must be law-abiding to be eligible for the highest office in this land. To elect a president who sees herself above the law, privileged, is to sanction anarchy in our streets. Justice must be equal, to the highbrows and the lowbrows, the elites and ordinary.
But Americans are proud. They would rather have sophistication over simplicity, image over substance.
Recent presidential elections proved this, for too many votes were dictated by race not substance, further dividing our people by the color of their skin and encouraging rioting in our cities. Why should this election be any different, be more substantive, be a true contest of goodness and truth and bravery over image? I fear today too many votes will be dictated by gender. Today, the image of a woman will easily win over the image of a man. A first woman president, at that. America will be further divided, further polarized, and further propelled into rapid decline.
To seek truth can be painful. Self-examination causes us to face failings as individuals and as nations. As a Christian I am commanded to confess and repent. Repentance is or should be my daily habit. It is no easy thing to admit wrongdoing, but to be healed, the sin and the sickness must be named. Diagnosis and prognosis must be faced. A plan of cure must be prescribed and followed.
For our fragile democratic union to survive (and history gives us unlikely odds), America must honor and practice equality before the law, with law-abiding candidates, legal immigration, and class-blind justice for all.