on Likeability

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”  Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), first and only female British Prime Minister

Last week I somehow managed to hold my nose and make it through watching the entire State of the Union speech. I am not sure why I even wasted my time, as our President merely repeated the same old tired lies from his previous speeches, except this time, the majority of Americans now know it. When people on Twitter treat such an important Presidential speech as an opportunity to play a new drinking game, the dignity and respect for the office has indeed found a new low. And the sad thing is, our own President doesn’t seem to really care all that much.

I cannot decide which one I find more infuriating – the President claiming powers that the Constitution did not grant him, or watching the majority of our insipid Congress stand and applaud him as he does so. Ordinary people’s voices cannot seem to penetrate the bubble that surrounds our dear elite in Washington, and those few that do manage to enter and dare speak for the rest of us are quickly either dismissed or worse, targeted as radicals to be silenced.  The only chorus that the elite seem to want to listen to is the one that tells them what their itching ears want to hear.

Sometimes I wonder if those in leadership care more about being liked, than about doing what’s right. Sure, there is no denying the lure of power, but I believe that all corruption begins with baby steps, those little compromises made over time that slowly eat away at the principles of men. And, I think that the very first baby step revolves around the intrinsic human need to be liked. This simple desire can be a very powerful motivator, especially if one’s internal compass is more dependent on the forces around it than the forces above it. Once the first compromise is made in order to be liked, even more must follow, to be joined by every sorry justification necessary just to keep them all propped up.

The problem with Washington is that there are not a lot of equal, competing forces available in order to challenge our elected officials to the point where the wrong choices become more uncomfortable than the right ones. Our leaders surround themselves with those who echo and encourage their own compromise. There is danger in this, as corruption is something that not only feeds on itself, but also draws more folks in to partake of its sweet poison. Wanting to be liked by all the wrong people does not make a good public servant. It does, however, make inept – and perhaps even dangerous – leaders.

After watching the State of the Union speech last week I have come to the conclusion that even though we have a black President, segregation is alive and well in Washington. Only this time, it is the rest of America – and our Constitution – being told to shut up and sit at the back of the bus. The question now is, would you rather be liked by the political elite, by being an obedient serf, or would you rather be free?

He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.” Aesop (620 BC- 564 BC), ancient Greek storyteller

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