Sunday, October 11, 2015


   “Authenticity concerns the truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions,” states the Wikipedia article on the topic. But I have some problems with the word, the way it is being used in the political arena. I’m tired of hearing political pundits and commentators acting as if they are the judges of an individual’s authenticity. When you think about it, calling someone authentic is really a meaningless comment.    
Polonius advising his son Laertes
    First of all, it merely reveals what the person who uses the term thinks of the one to whom it is applied, and too often it is being applied to the wrong persons for the wrong reasons.
In the second place, how is authenticity being defined, and on what basis does one attribute it to someone else? It is someone’s subjective opinion, not an objectively provable quality. One can suspect but not presume to know with absolute certainly, another person’s hidden motives.
    So what does it mean to be authentic? Is it being what Polonius urged his son Laertes to be: “This above all: to thine own self be true. . .” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3). If so, to which “self” must I be true, for I am a complexity of  ‘‘selves.” I know am not always true to my best self, so does that mean I am not an authentic person? We all wear masks at times. I once wrestled with that dilemma in a poem entitled The Real Me, which includes these lines:
    The "me" others know is not the real me;
    nor is it the "me" I want them to see.
    I'm not what I seem.  Yet is it not true,
    that masquerade "me" is part of me, too?   

    Beneath the facades the world need not see;
    the masks that I choose reveal the real me!
    Indeed, I confess that it may well be
    those phoney facades are closest to me.

    In other words, everyone is “authentic.” We all are who we are, masks and all. We can’t be anybody else than who we are. If we try to be somebody else, we are ourselves trying to be somebody else. That’s who we are. The real me and the phoney me are still me! It ill behooves us, therefore, to question anyone’s “authenticity.” 
Bernie Sanders "telling it like is"
All of us are at times calculating, politicians more so than most people. They have to be. They want people to think well of them. They want to win friends and influence people. They want people to vote for them. So they have to weigh their words carefully, knowing how easily they can be quoted out of context or accused of meaning something entirely different from what they intended. Bernie Sanders is praised for “telling it like it is,” but let’s examine that comment. Who is saying that? The people who agree with him! He’s telling it like they think it is, just as Donald Trump is telling it like the people who agree with him think it is!

    When Bernie works a crowd he is no less calculating than any other politician. Is he not choosing his words very carefully when he damns Hillary Clinton with faint praise? Has not Joe Biden been calculating his chances of becoming the Democratic nominee for President, as he weighs the pros and cons of entering the race? And Hillary Clinton has been calculating what her position should be on the Fair Trade Agreement. So does that make her any less “authentic” than Bernie, or Joe, or any other candidate?
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Donald Trupm
    Apparently some people think a candidate is authentic because he or she has no qualms about insulting other people? If so, then Donald Trump is the most authentic candidate of all!  There is nothing noble about being brutally frank or personally insulting, and it is certainly not kind. There are times when frankness needs to be balanced  with tact.
    Nor is authenticity something one can claim or aspire to “have.” Once you try to be authentic you automatically cease to be!   Authenticity is like humility: the moment you think you have it, you’ve lost it!
    Nor is authenticity to be equated with honesty. Honesty is not a virtue to be admired. My Dad used to bristle when he heard someone praised for being honest. “Everyone should be honest!” he would comment indignantly. He knew some people were not, but he didn’t think people should be praised for being what everyone was expected to be. He himself was thoroughly honest. He expected people to accept his word, because his word was always his bond. I never knew anyone who had more integrity than my father, but he would never have claimed to be “authentic.” That thought would never have entered his mind. He was himself. He was consistent, highly principled, and totally reliable. Whatever he did, he always gave it his best, and he expected others to do the same. As a coach and as a teacher he drew the best out of others.  He challenged his athletes and students to be the best they could be and his criticisms were always constructive. He was tough, but never demeaning. He was quick to praise, always ready to forgive. He bore no grudges, and he didn’t have a petty bone in his body.
    I have been angered by the way the main line press and news commentators have treated Hillary Clinton throughout this campaign. They harp continually on the so-called email “scandal.” What scandal? The term itself is pejorative.  She hasn’t broken any laws. She has been totally forthcoming about her private server. She has admitted that it would have been better not to have used a private server. But come on folks, what’s the big deal? The press accuses her of being hung up on the email controversy instead of focusing on the issues, while ignoring the many substantive speeches she has given, which have been filled with specific ideas and suggested programs. Hardly a mention was made of her outstanding address at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention, when those present and those watching on television were given a golden opportunity to listen critically and objectively to her and Bernie Sanders back to back.
    I appreciate Bernie for what he is and I agree with most of his positions, but there was no doubt whatsoever in my mind after watching the two of them, that Hillary was and is by far the more Presidential and the better qualified of the two. Nor was there any question in my mind about which of them was the better speaker: Bernie was a Johnny One Note;  Hillary touched a gamut of emotions, with a variety of pitch, volume, and intensity, and a much wider range of topics. As a former Seminary professor, I would have given her an A+ on that speech. If you question my evaluation, I urge you to go on YouTube and listen for yourself.
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Hillary Clinton is being pilloried
   Hillary Clinton is being pilloried because her detractors call her “untrustworthy.” The decline in her approval ratings reflect the effectiveness of the Republican smear campaign regarding the Benghazi incident, despite the conclusions of seven investigations, thirteen hearings, and fifty or more briefings that completely exonerated her, and despite the recent admission of Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader, that those Republican-lead hearings were intended to bring down the likely Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States.    
    We now know also that the favorable testimonies of some key witnesses were never released to the public. The whole, long process has been a Republican witch hunt. And note the timing of the forthcoming Congressional hearing —right in the middle of the presidential campaign!
    I appreciate Bernie’s intensity in attacking those things with which he disagrees. Except on the issue of gun control he has been consistent in his ideas. People know where he stands. But I can’t see him as President of the United States. His bombastic style gets tiresome after a while.
I know what he is against; I’m not always sure what he is for.
    In my view it is time for a woman President, and we would not have a more qualified and capable candidate for that office than Hillary Clinton.

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