Ask Bracher (Questions & Responses)


Question (P-001):
Why have political campaigns become so dirty? Why do we put up with politicians who seek to destroy opponents?

Because a significant segment of our society enjoys wallowing in filth. We are witness to a proliferation of smut and violence in many segments: television, movies, comedy, music and writing.

Political activities reflect a world that worships conquerors vanquishing opponents. The positive difference in modern times may be that we no longer literally kill those whom we defeat. We humiliate them, embarrass their families and hire "dirty trick" specialists to distribute disinformation (lies) about their records.

When we choose to reward dignity with respect, and social service with loyalty and honor, we will likely attract a higher caliber process. Until then, take your gas mask to the voting booth and elect the lesser smelling stench.

Question (P-002):
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 26, 2002

"Leaders such as Lott owe their followers integrity"

Trent Lott has apologized for his implied segregationist view. Many won't forgive him. Others insist he stay in power. Some Black Leaders are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, the Republican political agenda is at risk. The stature of the Republican Party is at risk. In your view, what should be done to restore the integrity of the Party? "Can this man be saved?"

The Trent Lott furor was created by a lack of accountability. The public conduct of those who are in leadership roles is subject to examination for consistency between and among actions, words, and responsibilities. When individuals in leadership positions exhibit behaviors that expose their flaws, they have undermined their leadership authority. In the business world, responsible boards of directors remove those executives. To retain them would expose the organization to unnecessary financial risk. Should we expect anything less from our elected officials?

Inconsistencies between words and deeds are human, quickly understood, and often forgiven with an apology. However, fundamental deficiencies raise serious questions. Can such individuals be trusted with responsibility-whether in spiritual life, business, or government? Leaders recognize when they have broken a trust, and take immediate steps to correct the problem. First, they acknowledge their mistakes. Second, they take corrective measures immediately. Finally, if leaders lose their followers as a result, the work for which they were responsible may be compromised, and they step down graciously.

Leaders step down out of respect to their followers and colleagues, and devote on-going efforts to repair the effects of their errors. Leaders mentor associates to help them avoid similar mistakes.

As a consequence, regardless of the profession, leaders owe their followers integrity-so that society can be sustained by a balance between self-interest and social responsibility. It is not only what you have done to get into trouble, but also what you do to get out of trouble that counts. There are consequences for mistakes…even for the powerful.

Question: (P-003)


Dear Jim:
While driving on Highway 1, not too far from Salinas, a woman passed me in an SUV with a bumper sticker that proclaimed: "Friends don't let friends vote Republican!" This made me furious, and it is sticking with me. Thousands of Americans have died to preserve our right to a free ballot box, free of prying eyes or coercion. To make a joke of this, or even to suggest that someone should restrain a friend in such a way--no matter what the party affiliation--is simply un-American. It also violates, or at least mocks, our integrity as citizens of a free country. What do you think?

Lost my sense of humor in California!

Dear Citizen with a (temporary) Loss of a Sense of Humor

You have already answered your own question when you said that you had lost your sense of humor. If the bumper-sticker is being displayed by a narrow-minded, even worse, close-minded, individual, then why take their position seriously? You are right, there are many legitimate positions from which to view problems and make decisions.

If the bumper-sticker is self-directed, then how clever of the person who displays such a sign to be able to laugh at himself or herself. If the driver is chuckling at how really silly people can be about a number of important issues, including partisan politics, then good for that driver for keeping a healthy perspective.

On the other hand, should the pseudo-intellectual and possibly sarcastic message have been offered for others to take seriously, there is a more obvious problem with over simplification and cruelty. Much of what is important in life needs to remain uncomplicated. The author, Robert Fulghum, makes some of his life-changing points about keeping life and values clear and simple in his best-selling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things. However, things seldom turn out the best when certain folks decide that they must communicate their lofty ideas in some condescending way.

As for your original question, what do I think? People who operate with this overly-simple and judgmental approach are not worthy of much time or energy. In contrast, a goodly number of fellow human beings are doing the best they know how. Liberals and conservatives, just about everybody, would live a lot more graciously and productively, if civility would be restored to politics, religion and education. Too much of what hurts our pride turns around and negatively impacts our productivity. We cannot afford such waste of resources, human and emotional during this era of terrorism, or even in these demanding economic times. Now, more than ever, we need one another – on the same team, moving in the same direction and committed to the values that built our society in such a way that each one of us is guaranteed our freedoms. In whatever ways we support the integrity of our system, we should proceed with enthusiasm. Ignore the bumper sticker, with the hope that whoever decided to display it will come to their senses.

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