Sincerity, Burning Through the Fog of Obfuscation
It is human nature to seek those things which are most rare and beautiful, and therefore the most prized. In the physical world, few things elicit visions of such stark elegance and grandeur than Carrara marble. Marble is highly sought after and desired in our most beautiful edifices. Expensive and often difficult to work with, its very temperamental nature makes it all the more desirable, the elemental equivalent of a beautiful, tempestuous woman that will not be tamed.
Marble comes in a myriad of types and colors, but Carrara marble, known for its pure, milky white character, is prized above all other marble by the world’s greatest sculptors. Centuries ago, in the “Golden Age” of Tuscan sculpture, it was considered the highest honor for a sculptor to be commissioned by a wealthy benefactor to create a statue from a block of Carrara marble.
It was also an endeavor that came with great pressure for the sculptor. Before the chisel was ever applied to the marble, the sculptor must first study the block in exquisite detail, memorizing its characteristics, noting the direction of the grain and any tiny flaws in the stone. He had to map out every strike with precision, completing the sculpture in his head before ever touching the stone. It was critical that he understand the flow of the marble’s grain. If not, a single strike with hammer and chisel against the grain could crack it. To strike with excessive force could cause the crystalline structure of the stone to be crushed, which in turn led to sub-surface holes that could ruin the entire piece.
Such mistakes rarely happened with master sculptors, who spent years perfecting their craft, learning the intricacies of the medium in which they labored, attending to every nuance, understanding every element of the process required to achieve perfection in their work. For less skilled, more impatient sculptors, however, disaster was just a hammer strike away. To those more unscrupulous artists, there was an opportunity to hide their “sin”, to cover up their mistake. Instead of admitting their error and losing both their reputation and commission, some artists would use a soft, white wax to cover up any flaws. When delicately and fastidiously applied, the wax would hide any imperfections. Generally, the artist had been paid long before the cover-up was noticed.
Eventually, the wealthy benefactors who funded these projects began to catch on to the subterfuge. As this method of using wax became more common, the patrons became more discerning; no commission would be paid to the artist until such time as the statue had been scrutinized in near microscopic detail for the presence of wax. Once the examiner determined that the statue had been created without wax, the payment would be released to the sculptor. For Carrara statuary, the highest level of artistic integrity came with the distinction of being “sin cere”, or “without wax”. It signified that the statue was of the highest quality, without hidden flaw, uninjured and unadulterated. It meant that the statue was fundamentally pure, not just superficially flawless.
Over time that designation began to be used to apply to people. A person who is “sincere” is pure of heart, honest and has integrity. They are the same whether in public or private. They seek not deception or fraud, evasion or sophistry. In short, they can be trusted as men or women of impeccable character and unimpeachable virtue.
Today, our nation faces existential problems that must be confronted honestly if we are to solve them. The magnitude of these problems is simply staggering, and our propensity to address these topics honestly seems to be inversely proportionate with the level of hyper-partisanship. We have a national debt that now exceeds 100% of GDP. We have unemployment rates that have stayed above 9%, and often near or above 10% in 25 of the last 27 months. The dollar has been weakened on the world market, which in turn had driven up the price of commodities such as food and oil. Entitlements are threatening to consume nearly every dollar earned in America, at least those dollars not consumed by payments for interest on the debt, which is projected to reach $900 billion annually within a decade. We have a federal government that is using redistributionist taxation policies and burdensome regulations to manipulate markets and reward favored donors and constituencies, and as a result stifling economic growth and entrepreneurialism.
Those that have sought to return government to its constitutional constraints, reduce or maintain current tax levels, drastically reduce regulatory burdens, and cut the runaway spending levels which have brought our economy to the brink of collapse have been referred to as terrorists and hostage-takers. They have had their character and motives maligned. Our own president has engaged in thuggish tactics, when multiple times he addressed the nation and called on those that bought into his class warfare rhetoric to bombard the phone lines and e-mail servers of those who opposed his policies. His party has aired commercials rhetorically accusing Paul Ryan and Republicans of murdering the elderly because they submitted a budget that did not cut Medicare spending as claimed, but simply reduced the rate of increase.
For their part, Republicans must also admit their complicity in the bind we find ourselves in. It was Republicans under Bush that increased federal spending massively, and not just on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was Republicans that passed the first bailout and TARP, Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. All of these things have added to the overall cost of the federal government, usurped powers granted to the states or reserved to the people, and turned us into mere slaves and adjuncts to our government masters.
I am not in the least bothered by the passion and emotion of both sides in these arguments. That is to be expected when we have diametrically opposed beliefs on issues of national importance, and we are fighting for the supremacy of our ideas in the public square. However, if we continue to attack the supporters of these policies individually and collectively, as opposed to the policies themselves and their merits and detractions, we’ll look up one day to discover that the walls have fallen around us and the roof is crashing upon our heads. This is easier said than done, and of that I can personally attest.
What we need now is principled leadership. We need men and women of integrity, who will make an honest case for their positions, free of deception, manipulation and outright lies. We can’t have thuggery and leaders who “lead from behind”.
Joseph Story, former Supreme Court Justice and called “The Father of American Jurisprudence”, wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution (1833) that “Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.”
Those who have been most honest about the problems facing our nation and the solutions required to repair them have been viciously attacked by those that want to retain power. Every American must begin to study these issues carefully, let the light of knowledge burn away the fog of obfuscation, and rise up and demand accountability from our elected officials. Of that belief I am both firm and sincere.