Bristol, Character and When Things Really Go Wrong
It’s one thing when you talk about character in a college dorm bull session. Or, debate ethics in a college ethics seminar. But, what really matters is not when the sun is shining. The true test of institutions, intentions and ethics matter when things start to go wrong; really wrong. It is in these conditions we begin to see how truly committed we are to the principles we articulate.
What we have with Sarah Palin and John McCain are two very fallible human beings for whom life hasn’t worked out perfectly. Palin’s selection for the vice president slot wasn’t a matter of low expectations or poor vetting. It’s rather a situation of two good people who had to deal with very bad situations. It is how these two acquitted themselves that speaks to their character and ability to deal with a crisis under pressure. I think that both have done well in that regard.
In McCain’s case, we have his honorable performance while he was a POW in North Vietnam. Specfically, he could have been release far earlier then he was. But, he refused. POW’s would be release in the order in which they came. First in, first out. Oh, in this day and age he could have gotten and taken the early out. And rationalized it with most people not giving it another thought. But, McCain didn’t. He stuck to his guns and principles and endured five years of captivity.
Sarah Palin’s case involves two babies. First, her fifth child’s Down’s syndrome. Then, her 17 year-old daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. In both cases, abortion could have been an “easy” out. And, again large swaths of the electorate would have not noticed. In fact, the abortions would have easily buried for one, if not both, babies as news media fodder until November. No one asked for either of these situations. And, these things occur, despite the best of efforts and intentions. Family life, like a lot of public policy (especially foreign relations) is a matter of choosing between a bad choice and a worse one.
But, Palin stuck to her pro-life guns and the consequences that keeping both babies will entail. Obviously, the decision to keep the Down’s baby was Palin’s. And, keeping Bristol’s baby was, in part, Sarah Palin’s too. A frightened 17 year-old is going to turn to her parents. And, Bristol’s decision is going to reflect the her parent’s influence. Sarah Palin was in a position to convince (or pressure) Bristol into just about any decision that would have suited Sarah Palin. Bristol’s decision was Sarah’s in very large part; in part because I’m sure Bristol knows that she and her baby will be supported.
Courage and convictions have a way of wilting under the pressure of real life crisises. We have a true measure of this man and women when view through the lens of these very real life situations when normal and perfect break down. And, we have a measure of the resiliency of their beliefs and convictions when the rubber meets the road.