Letter to the editor: Unethical leader must be resisted
I find Mr. Trump’s performance at his Feb. 16 press conference to bedeeply disturbing. He was obsessed with Hilary Clinton, his need to prove that he won the election by large margins, an unrealistic view of his performance and the workings of the White House, Vladimir Putin, and the American press corps. Why does he portray such a disturbing and unrealistic view of the world?
One of the core principles of ethics is that ethical thinking is a form ofrational thinking. Ethicists tell us that ethical thinking can be learned. When we think ethically, we consider the rights and needs of others. When thinking ethically, we strive to see things as they are without pre-conceived beliefs. We invite a variety of opinions. We look to the common good. Think of Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals.”
In contrast, when we think unethically, we think egocentrically. We promoteour own selfish interests without caring for the needs of others. When acting unethically, we tend to be rigid. We do not see things for what they are because we are committed to validating our own way of thinking. We insulate ourselves from people and opinions that differ from our own.
As I see it, Mr. Trump generally acts unethically. Despite the facts, hebelieves that he won the election by the widest margin in recent times. He has to believe this because winning is part of his egocentric worldview, his hype, his brand. Given his preconceived belief, his job then is to manufacture facts that support his thinking. These are what Kellyanne Conway called “alternate facts,” facts to suit an alternative reality. Facts, for Mr. Trump, are like slogans — say what you want to sell your product.
There’s another lesson that ethicists teach us. Unethical leaders requirecomplacent followers who tacitly or actively allow them to pursue their self-serving agenda. For example, a Senator who denies the evidence of climate change while representing a coal state or citizens who sit idly by while leaders act unethically. Unethical leaders require unethical followers.
So, where does that lead us?In these times, we must be especially careful to act ethically and we must take decisive, nonviolent action. We have a constitutional right to express our opinions and to protest.
We must boldly exercise our First Amendmentrights: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” These are more than fundamental rights. They are fundamental responsibilities of ethical citizenship.
Editor’s note: Harry Chaucer teaches ethics for school principals at Castleton University as wellas other courses.
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