We have transitioned into a world where our concept of standards is not only being questioned, it is being changed for us.
While growing up, most of my compatriots were probably told that any boy could become the President of the United States. I’m talking the ’60s in my case. Because I was born on the 4th of July, there seemed to be some expectation that I would serve my country, I was a “real live nephew of my Uncle Sam” and my life would be destined to this public service.
I was taught that public service, be it military service or civil service, was the best one could offer and finally give to his fellow Americans. The role models employed to aid in convincing me were usually Presidents of the United States.
I had a framed photograph of Mr Kennedy hanging on my bedroom wall as a kid. I was only four when he was shot, and maybe the “I remember where” of that moment is a learned memory from my mother, but who cares? I was playing on the living room floor and worried why my mother was crying on the sofa.
I volunteered for Mr Nixon’s second campaign, handed out bumper stickers and buttons, tagged along on youth canvassing in my town. I was properly aghast when I learned that he had resigned, that he had been shamed, had shamed the office of the President of the United States. He had fallen below the standards.
Mr Carter seemed to reestablish those standards. A farmer, man of faith, soft-spoken and calm. He seemed an odd mixture of strength and softness. He was the first president I was old enough to vote for, on his second term. I never voted for President, or any one else for that matter, again. But my belief in the Standards of the Presidency remained firm.
The following presidents, despite their varied backgrounds and political leanings all seemed to share the respect, nearly awe, of the office that they occupied. Their private lives may have been scandalous, they probably participated in just as much cover up and corruption as any that had occupied the office before them. Yet, they all did the basic job of being presidential, of being that role model, that figurehead that the office finally ends up being.
The President that occupies slot 45 has brought us to question those standards. He seems to have redefined “Presidential Standards” to his own liking, and obviously to the liking of several million Americans. While one can understand why those Americans like his way of expressing himself as President, they seem to be missing the fact that the awe and respect for the position are quickly fading.
Without that awe and respect, respect and awe, the office of the President finally becomes a civil servant job just like any other. Civil servants who work in the Department of Motor Vehicles have a poor reputation, are often joked about. Mr Trump seems to have dropped the expectations of his civil servant position to those levels. Instead of having risen to the office, he has decided to drag the office down to his size.
While being petty and mean works for the average DMV civil servant, being petty and mean as President of the United States means that the position can be considered just a job, any boy can grow up and become President.
Good old, old-fashioned standards like “sticks and stones” or “if you haven’t anything nice to say” should apply to everyone. That Mr Trump is being excused, judged by a different set of standards because he is the President of the United States sets him apart, just not in the way other Presidents were set apart from the rest of us mere American citizens.
This could be what the Presidency needed. Whoever follows Mr Trump will have the choice of being satisfied with the new “modern day” presidential, or, beginning from scratch and the broken windows of Mr Trump’s idea of civil service, will rebuild the Presidency, casting off older, stiffer aspects of awe, while keeping a firm hold on the necessary respect the office needs to be effective.