Expedience versus ethics

Emma Maitland: “men look first to what is expedient and then to what is right, while women look first to what is right and then to what is expedient.”

Emma Maitland was an elected member of the London School Board for nine years in the 1880’s. Serving with mostly men, she was in a good position to observe how elected men operated.

I’m thinking about her observation as I listen to two male members of the American Christian right justify their continuing support for Trump in the aftermath of his boasts about sexually assaulting women. I didn’t pay attention to who the first man was, but the second was #Ben Carson  . As I listened to him say Trump’s actions just didn’t matter because America was going off the rails and Republican solutions were needed, I heard him valuing expedience over ethics/morality/integrity, even legality.

I think we’re all drawn to the expedient solution, or to efficiency, as I’ve thought of it when I’ve seen it in my own workplace. Let some masterful commander just issue the rules, make the tough decisions, and get things done. It doesn’t rock my boat. It lets me continue life as usual, unless I’m one of the unlucky ones who needs to be let go, set adrift in the unemployment sea, even if it is two days before Christmas. Expedience acts swiftly, the clean cut, the thorough elimination of rot.

Expedience knows that if you topple the king, you have to kill all his sons as well, even the infant still at the breast. And you have to disable all his supporters, even if that means a purge of millions. Expedience is ruthless.

Just about the same time that Emma Maitland’s observations were printed for a new audience in a 1983 book, The Sexual Dynamics of History, we were all given the opportunity to learn that the personal is the political. Just as this phrase has no single author, it has no single meaning. Here’s my understanding of it: the character that you display in your private life will be the same character that informs your decisions and behaviours in your public roles.

If you cheat on your wife – if you make promises to her and break them behind her back – you will also cheat on the electorate. If you beat your wife, you’ll also abuse your employees and those whom you serve. If you take the attitude that you’re the most important person in your family, then that’s the attitude you will have if you’re elected to a public office or appointed to a high position in your place of employment.

Good leaders know that to lead is to serve. Bad ones believe that to lead is to be served. So you can tell by how someone lives their private lives, how they’ll live their public lives.

When Ben Carson and other men of the right say Trump’s illegal violations of people’s bodies is not important, they are ignoring his character. Do they really believe a bullying violator of personal boundaries is safe for anyone? He can be counted on to treat America as he treats women – he’ll violate it to satisfy his own pathetic ego needs, he’ll rape it to fill his own bank accounts, he’ll serve up charm with one hand while ramming it up the arse with his other, and he’ll silence it so he doesn’t have to take the backlash.

Character – meaning  ethical values, the ability to be honest,  integrity – informs everything we do. Choosing expedience over ethical character always maintains the status quo, with an extra dose of ruthless destruction. Maybe since women are always the greatest losers when expedience is on the rampage, we know better than men that change can only happen when the most elementary building block is personal integrity.

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