The following Guest Dispatch hails from the West Coast. You can learn more about John Flores by visiting his first post on our site, here. If you have never seen A Man for All Seasons, do so this weekend. What a great story. As John says in his post, More was dedicated to truth and speaking, no matter the outcome. There is a lesson there for politicians today. If you do not want to view the entire film, a three-minute video summary is posted below.
Core Beliefs — A Washington Casualty?
John Flores, Oregon
In the film, “A Man For All Seasons,” Paul Scofield portrays Sir Thomas More, who was later canonized and is known now as Saint Thomas More. I often attended Sunday Mass at St. Thomas More church in Alhambra, California. I came to idolize St. Thomas More as my personal hero for his dedication to truth and speaking it, no matter the consequences.
In one scene, while speaking to Cardinal Wolsey, More says, “I think that when statesmen forsake their private, personal conscience for the sake of their public office, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” There is much beauty in that statement, and so much that can be learned from it if today’s elected officials would take the time to ponder it.
This has always been a problem with politics. This is also what troubled me so during both of my political campaigns (1994, 1996). It was the pressure to answer the question, “What side are you on,” and to answer it according to party protocol.
I’ll never forget the scene in “The Distinguished Gentleman,” starring Eddie Murphy as a freshman Congressman. He is meeting with a staff person and discussing re-election campaign funding and PAC money. The staffer asks, “Do you like pizza?”
When Murphy hedges on his answer, the staffer eases the tension by pointing out that, whether or not you like pizza, there is PAC money available to you on either side of the issue. And so the “private, personal conscience” is removed from the equation and we have a government run by politicians, rather than statesmen.
St. Thomas More was beheaded by Henry VIII for not sacrificing his private, personal conscience and his allegiance to the teachings of the Catholic Church. By refusing to change his mind, he defied his king.
So many of today’s elected representatives won’t even develop a set of core beliefs (at least none that they’ll stand by), for fear of losing an election.
Anyone for waffles?