Everything depends on honor – lest we forget

Posted 1/6/20

Have you ever thought about it? America’s entire way of life depends on honor. You may not think so, but it is a fact. Absent self-respect, respect for others, a sense of perspective on one’s …

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Everything depends on honor – lest we forget


Have you ever thought about it? America’s entire way of life depends on honor. You may not think so, but it is a fact. Absent self-respect, respect for others, a sense of perspective on one’s place in society, history and the civic order, rule of law swiftly devolves into lawlessness. In short, America is premised on a sense of honor. If we lose this cornerstone, this all-important societal footing, we lose the nation.

Recently, we witnessed an impeachment process ram-rodded down the throat of a minority party. We saw due process ignored, co-equal members of Congress over-talked, overridden, gaveled to silence. We saw 200-year-old procedures thrown over, simply trashed. We saw lawyers schooled in civil and criminal procedure, technically “officers of the court,” boldly ignoring established legal procedures.

We saw a sense of equity unceremoniously dumped, material witnesses forbidden, false statements trumpeted, and dishonorable behavior from people of whom we should expect more. They have a duty to deliver more – as a matter of honor.

Let me simplify – and illustrate that my concern is not about political parties or figures, but for the country. Why do you stop at a red light, when no one is looking? Why respect a person or property of others when no one will call you out? Why do you pay for goods rather than walking out, even if you could abscond? Why do you vote, fill out census forms, report crime, intercede to stop an injustice, stand for our national anthem, put hand on heart, teach your children right from wrong, or serve as a soldier, sailor, airman, marine, police officer – or simply a dutiful American? Honor – that is why.

And that is why the nation should stop – right now – and think hard about what is expected of us. Political differences have always existed, levels of acrimony ebbed and flowed. At our country’s founding, before and after the Civil War, in testy days before World War II, American tempers ran hot.

That is why we are blessed to live in a republic, where we can deliberate, moderate, modulate, accommodate, discuss, compromise, persuade, dissuade, and level rough spots – and then honor our agreements. Honor again – without it, we are nothing.

If our leaders do not think honoring principles like rule of law, due process, fairness, even-handed treatment of their peers, and constitutional norms matters, what kind of example is that for the rest of us?

In short, representative democracies – republics like ours – are fragile. They depend at core on honor. Absent the commitment to being honorable, from red lights to impeachment protocol, society becomes untethered, lawless, disrespected both within and from without.

For our society – for this blessed nation – to long endure, we must remember what we are built on. In a word, our lives, our shared past, our common future, our personal safety, our prosperity and America’s promise are founded on rule of law, keeping faith with an unspoken code, living by honor. This would be a good moment to reflect on honor. Without it, we are nothing. With it, America is unbounded.

Robert Charles is a national spokesman for the Association of Mature American Citizens. He is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator.


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