Virtue

Saturday, April 19, 2014
It's becoming more and more difficult to find a "Made in U.S.A." pocket knife these days. This is America, the United States of America, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, why is it so difficult to find products whose manufacture we not only pioneered, but held world dominance for generations? Ace Hardware in Red Bank keeps a small inventory and can special order others, taking only a week or so, but Cotton and the posse at Galloway's Ace in Spring City always has a good variety and inventory.


Not long ago The Gang was lobbying for a road trip, so up Hwy. 27 we drove. While in Spring City my Pez dispenser ran out, with no refills, so we headed to the other end of the block, where all those pretty girls work, to restock. While paying for my Pez, across the street there was a huge sign for a Rhea County candidate, County Mayor George Thacker, running for re-election. I started to ask "Isn't that the guy..." and before I could finish one of those cuties answered "Who got caught soliciting a prostitute in Knoxville? Yes he is." and another added "And he isn't very smart either. He should have known it was a cop. She was pretty."

After a stop at Ms. Sophie's favorite fine dining establishment for a round of McDoubleCheeseBurgers, plain because they have sensitive tummies, and a large McCoffee, we got back on the road. I lit up a fag and while taking a long, deep drag it dawned on me... we have a lot of politicians who aren't pure as the driven snow like they want us to believe. Mr. Thacker in Rhea County reminded of a Knox County Commissioner, Mr. Jeff Ownby, who received judicial diversion just a few months ago, pleading "no contest" to charges of public indecency after being busted for blowing smoke rings at Sharp's Ridge Memorial Park, locally known as "Pickle Park." At 4:30 p.m. in the middle of May, one might easily presume this was in broad daylight too. Legislators and others busted for corruption not too many years ago in the Tennessee Waltz sting, Pikeville's mayor, South Pittsburg's police chief... we Tennesseans haven't been strangers to recent misconduct by our elected officials, have we.

There are several books on a list I re-read every couple of years including the Republic (Plato), Siddhartha (Hesse), The Art of War (Sun Tzu), Meditations (Marcus Aurelius), Old School America (Coach Peter Slovenski), and others. During a discussion with a friend up the road who's taking some Women's Studies classes in college, as her face flushed, voice pitch and volume raised, the grin on her husband's face said Dude's apparently been taking some heat lately, not the fun kind, I was reminded of two things; the talent I have for making women angry, it's a gift, and it'd been a while since re-reading two favorite treatises by Aristotle, Ethics and Politics.

My copy was translated from Aristotle's Greek by Mr. William Ellis who boiled them down to the maple sugar in his introduction when he wrote "Aristotle did not separate, as we are inclined to do, the spheres of the statesman and the moralist. In the Ethics he has described the character necessary for the good life, but that life is for him essentially to be lived in society, and when in the last chapters of the Ethics he comes to the practical application of his inquiries, that finds expression not in moral exhortations addressed to the individual but in a description of the legislative opportunities of the statesman. It is the legislator's task to frame a society which shall make the good life possible. Politics for Aristotle is not a struggle between individuals or classes for power, nor a device for getting done such elementary tasks as the maintenance of order and security without too great encroachments on individual liberty. The state is 'a community of well-being in families and aggregations of families for the sake of a perfect and self-sufficing life.' The legislator is a craftsman whose material is society and whose aim is the good life."

He further writes "In an early dialogue of Plato's, the Protagoras, Socrates asks Protagoras why it is not as easy to find teachers of virtue as it is to find teachers of swordsmanship, riding, or any other art. Protagoras' answer is that there are no special teachers of virtue, because virtue is taught by the whole community. Plato and Aristotle both accept the view of moral education implied in this answer. In a passage of the Republic (492 b) Plato repudiates the notion that the sophists have a corrupting moral influence upon young men. The public themselves, he says, are the real sophists and the most complete and thorough educators. No private education can hold out against the irresistible force of public opinion and the ordinary moral standards of society."

A sophist in this context is a teacher or philosopher, but can also be used to refer to someone who uses faulty reasoning or logic.

The ordinary moral standards of society...

Let's forget, for now, about the recent spate of unelected bureaucrats and other public officials who've been busted for embezzlement, sexual harassment, contempt of congress, discriminatory practices of various types, and absolute violations of statutory law, to name but a few, being perpetrated by those in positions from the dog catcher to the school system to municipal and state and federal government. Looking at both elected officials and candidates for elected office we have a bit of a mess, don't we.

At the federal level, oh my... there are too many to mention. But we still have that cat, former State Senator and insurance man Eric Stewart who, while chastising opponent Congressman DesJarlais for using his prescription pad to troll for loose women, was convicted recently of felony theft. He was accepting money from at least one small business contractor for insurance premiums and converting it to personal use.

Oh my, and then we have that insurance guy from the northern part of Hamilton County. His name escapes me at the moment but he stood in front of the Pachyderm Club and told everyone how he took an existing contract for county vehicles, one that went to the low bidder but out of state, to a local dealer to see if he could give an equal or lower price... after the contract had been let. Seems dude got in some other trouble when he went to Nashville, something about a fight over a woman with another legislator, both of whom decided not to run in the next election. But 4 years later, at the behest of HCGOP establishment elites, he ran again. I'll remember his name one day, if it ever becomes important again.

And oh... those new candidates. What on earth would possess someone who's been publicly busted for cheating on professional exams, and other, let's call them indiscretions, to believe the voters of Hamilton County, or any other group, would elect him as a steward to a great deal of public money? Or a lawyer, an officer of the courts, who has significant tax liens, if we consider something over 280 Million buckaroos significant, to the same position? She may think a lawyer is more qualified for a purely administrative office, but who in his right, or even left, mind would vote for someone so irresponsible? And both of these would presume to claim superior qualifications to a 40 year small business owner like squeaky clean Larry Henry? What ever happened to trustworthiness, integrity, honesty, dedication, attention to detail, and loyalty? It's been said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one's watching. Both of Commissioner Henry's opponents have shown they don't necessarily do the right things when everyone's watching. What would they do when they can get behind closed doors?

Poor Mr. Smartt. He screams that everyone's bigoted toward him because of his religion. How many times does he have to be reminded of his own bigotry... calling that poor lady a "New York Yankee Jew," but he couldn't even get that right. She was from Detroit. Or, as a very dear friend recently commented after reading some of the news reports, that he's often claimed, in the media, that Mormons are, well, they're just smarter than everyone else and that graduates of Brigham Young University are the most highly educated people in the world... while attempting to use his position on the school board to give them an advantage over our Tennessee Homies. Excuse me? Many other colleges and universities might take issue with that belief. One might wonder about those leaking sewer lines in Soddy Daisy reported here on Chattanoogan.com when Mr. Smartt touts his WWTA creds, too.

Bigotry is so unbecoming, isn't it. Go Big Orange.

Then we have Mr. Perry Perkins running as a staunch by-golly-Republican, even endorsed by some of the establishment elites, but he certainly isn't fiscally conservative in any shape, form, or fashion when he throws out, as part of his creds, that he would like to see the D.A.R.E. program re-implemented... a program that even supporters have stated, like for the past 15 years, was an abject failure. But he's a conservative Republican, don't you know... a Republican who supported former sheriff Billy Long's campaign to the tune of $1,000.00, to a guy who was ultimately busted for enabling drug shipments to our children and grandchildren. That might've been a poor choice, for sure, but in the election previous to Mr. Long's he also supported one Mr. Joe Guidi... 500 bucks worth of support he did, reported right here on Chattanoogan.com. Who is Mr. Guidi? Mr. Guidi ran for sheriff as a Democrat back in 2002, and introduced Billy Long to one Mr. Clarence Eugene Overstreet, the man who purportedly led Mr. Long over to the dark side. Poor choices of candidates to support for sure, but Mr. Perkins now wants us to believe he's a gosh-by-golly-Republican? There should be no shame in running for political office as a Democrat. If he's a Republican, cool. Don't run as a Democrat in drag.

We could go on for days, but the point is we complain about our government... yet condone less than total honesty in our candidates for elected office, allow officials to practice cronyism and nepotism, and look the other way, nay, make excuses for their indiscretions. Everyone makes mistakes, but why do we accept, even encourage, those with a history of poor behavior to run our government, where decisions are made every day that will affect our grandchildren and great grandchildren?

As stated above, "(p)olitics for Aristotle is not a struggle between individuals or classes for power, nor a device for getting done such elementary tasks as the maintenance of order and security" by giving up our individual liberty, but we must also expect some level of virtue in society. By extension, how are we to demand virtue in government if we're willing to accept less than virtuous behavior by our elected officials, a lack of accountability for past indiscretions, and candidates with histories of questionable decision-making ability? We're only entitled to the government we're willing to accept, aren't we.

I haven't voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter, for which I'm still doing penance. It appears I'll be voting for at least a couple this year considering the poor behavior of some of the establishment Republican elite types. Maybe it's time to just go make a cup of coffee, light up a smoke, and meditate for a while.

I wonder if this is going to hurt...

Royce Burrage, Jr.
Royce@Officially Chapped.org

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