Integrity – Lieberman-style

I was chatting with a friend of mine who happens to be a very strong supporter of the Lamont campaign. Senator Lieberman, who I have come to understand to be a person of high integrity from friends and associates who have worked with him, has been lambasted for his position on Iraq (which I personally do not agree with). His argument seems core to his belief system, which I understand to be the essence of integrity. While I may not agree with his point of view, I could respect him. My friend, on the other hand, could not.

To help in our discussion, I searched for the definition of “integrity”. After hearing
this word being brandied about this campaign season either as a badge of honor or a failing in others, I wondered if I really knew what the word integrity actually meant.
Looking at Merriam-Webster site, I found this definition:

Function: noun
1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY
2 : an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS
synonym see HONESTY

What was especially interesting was the synonym: HONESTY

Function: noun
1 obsolete : CHASTITY
2 a : fairness and straightforwardness of conduct b : adherence to the facts : SINCERITY
3 : any of a genus (Lunaria) of European herbs of the mustard family with toothed leaves and flat disk-shaped siliques
synonyms HONESTY, HONOR, INTEGRITY, PROBITY mean uprightness of character or action. HONESTY implies a refusal to lie, steal, or deceive in any way. HONOR suggests an active or anxious regard for the standards of one’s profession, calling, or position. INTEGRITY implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge. PROBITY implies tried and proven honesty or integrity.

In our conversation, my friend suggested that integrity and honesty does not necessarily equate – especially in politics. It is often perception rather than truth that becomes reality. Stated in a different way, honesty can be overshadowed by marketing political expedience – especially if the “firm adherence to a code” is the goal of being elected or re-elected. What leads to my respect for Senator Lieberman is his firm adherence to his views and the fact that while the winds of politics has shifted, he still is strong on his position and is standing his ground. While I do not agree with his position, I can respect the fact that he has put thought and deliberation in order to form his point-of-view.

The Challenge
If you are a staunch believer of the principles of your party and country, but
your position is not aligned with with those in the party, how should you act?
If defense of your opinion/reputation could be at the detriment of your party or yourself, what should you do? When forced to defend oneself from outrageous
allegations, do you shy away from the battle for your values for the good of the party?

Politics is something I have grown to appreciate – and can only imagine I have a small understanding in the grand scheme. But I am often left wondering: do the mechanizations of politics and the games people play have to impinge on your integrity? Does a person have to forego the “moral code” one believes to play well in politics. When I think on this, I am brought short by one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

While I do not agree with most of Senator Lieberman’s views, I respect the man’s adherence to his own moral compass. He is fighting his own battle – and while he strives for this seat, I believe he will fight the fight he believes in. In 2000, we had this man as our potential VP. In 2004, he fought a hard fight for the Presidential nomination. I hope the Joe-mentum does not fade away if he loses this battle. While I have never met the man personally, friends and collegues who have met him speak incredibly highly of his personal integrity and valor. While some would feel that he has lost his way in the eighteen years he has been in office, I leave the decision of whom should represent CT to the voters of CT. If he loses the race, I hope he continues to battle on the issues he feels is right and just. A democracy is made better by discourse, rather than consensus.

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