Saturday, January 28, 2012

Respectability Is Overrated

I woke up early this morning (in spite of the fact that it's a Saturday) with the accomplishment of a couple of goals in mind. One of them was to dive right into writing so that I could get a weekend posting up on the blog; which of course proved a dismal failure, since the blank page in front of me didn't appear willing to fill itself with clever literary bits of even more clever thought. This is something that I am often all too familiar with however, being neither as diligent or as talented as some of my fellow bloggers; but I resolved to stick with it.

The second of those goals was to do something about my disreputable appearance. It's all well and good to be a Curmudgeon, but looking like one of the finalists in the 'Aqualung' look-like contest can become rather tedious over time. I had therefore resolved to make my way down to local barbershop early in the day (when few would see me and the work could be done quickly) to have an assessment of the damage done, and what repairs made that could be performed.

Their work complete, I was handed a mirror to see the results of their prodigious efforts. While of course they only had the material at hand to work with, they had managed to produce results; and a certain degree of respectability in appearance had been restored. Being a fixed charge establishment, they were woefully recompensed for their labors, something which I could only attempt to remedy with suitable gratuity.

While such efforts are only 'hair deep' and seldom last, I found that in returning to the accusing blank page that still stared back at me, that I now had something to waste a bit of keyboard effort upon … Respectability.

In this an election year, it certainly seems to be something that many running for office are attempting to exemplify. It's hard enough, I realized, to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear in my own case; without having to overcome a lifetime of public service foibles while trolling the public for votes. Every past error in judgment, every misstatement, and every personal peccadillo will be poked and prodded by the vultures in the media. And if by some chance of fate one should be overlooked (or under-reported) there is little doubt that it will be discovered by the blogosphere and and displayed for all to see anyway.

Who among us is so perfect that we can stand such scrutiny, who of us has not modified our beliefs, our public pronouncements, and our behavior over time. In fact, I would find myself far more suspicious of someone who had not. Someone so rigid, so self-assured, and so righteous seems far more dangerous than one who remains open to learning new facts and new truth, and adjusts their beliefs to compensate for such an education.

As for the appearance or respectability, I have to ask myself if we are seeking true leaders in this country, or merely casting for them. Shall we elect Jimmy Smits, Martin Sheen “The West Wing”, Kevin Kline “Dave”, or Michael Douglas “The American President” simply on their ability to appear presidential? Does a good haircut and a well-cut suit imply the ability to become the leader of the free world? Have we become so shallow that a well-crafted speech, well-performed off of a teleprompter, is to become the measure of choosing a commander-in-chief?

The pictures that I have seen of Washington, Adams (or his son John Quincy Adams), Jefferson, and Madison do not persuade me that they were striking figures of respectability. Tyler and Lincoln's were completely disreputable (if not downright ugly) and they should thank goodness that they ran for office before television. Cleveland and Taft could have stood some time in the gym in order to look more respectable. And as for Ronald Reagan, though I love the man, that haircut of his was absolutely ridiculous. Some may point to Kennedy to make an argument to the contrary, but a serious debate could be mounted on the fact that his respectable appearance was apparently only skin-deep; hiding some correspondingly ugly character traits that it might have been nice to know about. Such thinking recently in fact, might well have seen John Edwards as the resident of the White House instead of the current one, a prospect in light of later revelations that's too horrible to contemplate.

Looking at the current crop of applicants for the highest office in the land therefore, may require voters to look beyond the well-coiffed, well crafted images created by their handlers; or the well written messages of speech writers who probably look like they need to get out in the sun once in a while.  They may actually be forced to look at whether these men have a clear and believable vision to get this country out of the mess that it'sin right now, along with the ability to bring about consensus to follow that vision. 

I am forced to the conclusion that Respectability may in fact be overrated, both in a political candidate … and in myself. While there are other traits that may be sought after and admired, this one may prove mostly vacuous.  When all is said and done, a disreputable appearance may not in fact be an accurate way to judge the character of a man, and may in fact indicate a far greater concern for dealing with reality than creating illusion.

Hey!  This could mean that there's some small hope for me (in life, not office) after all.  Man, I hope those guys at the barbershop can get along without counting on my regular visits for a while ...


Roland Hansen said...

I can see it now:

President Timothy W. Higgins

Timothy W Higgins said...


That's not even funny to my normally warped sensibilities; so unless you are talking about someone else with my name, bite your tongue.