Peter’s Perspective: What We Choose is Who We Are

I too am shocked and sickened by Rick Perry’s divisive tone and bigoted words in his Christmas campaign commercial for the Presidency. (As of this writing, YouTube “dislikes” are outnumbering “likes” by a count of 40:1).

Perry reveals a character that resorts to maligning and marginalizing minorities as a show of strength. He is really no different than the racists who denigrate African-Americans, the skinheads who slander Jews, and the bullies who mock Americans with disabilities. He is so insulting to the dignity of so many that, at the end of his 30 seconds, he is really just an embarrassment.

What I wonder about is this: There was a whole team of people involved in the polling, planning, scripting, shooting and reviewing of this ad. Of them I ask: What are your values and guiding principles? Are they reflected in this ad or do you find this ad repugnant? If the latter, how much further will you personally be willing to go in this ugly show of divisiveness and bigotry? At what point do you personally draw the line and say “enough.” (Before or after Gov. Perry goes public in favor of yellow stars and pink triangles?)

Our Declaration of Independence proclaims: We are all created equal and endowed with the unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Mr. Perry’s tone and words mock both. To the degree that you continue to support this candidacy or any candidacy that spews hate and bigotry toward any human being, you condone this mockery of human equality.

Today is your defining moment. Right here and right now is your time to ask yourselves, “Does this message reflect who am I and how do I want to be in the world?” There is no right answer. There is, however, the truthful answer. Go for the truth.

If your response is yes, that’s good data. Carry on.

If your response is no, that’s good data. Act accordingly.

What we choose is who we are.

I take heart in the words of Thomas Jefferson: “…in matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock…”

And I find courage in the wisdom of Mohandas Gandhi: “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please or, worse, to avoid trouble.”

To acquiesce for a show of loyalty or to pursue victory at the expense of your values causes injury to your character — an injury that can be a lasting liability to your career and your conscience. 

It takes real courage to say “no”, especially if doing so might deny you something you desire. But by making the choice to say “no” when faced with events that could damn your own character, you safeguard the only thing that you can truly call yours — your integrity.

It’s up to you. In the end, you are the final arbiter of your actions.