Desiderata is a fancy word for desirable attributes, and I’m using it in recognition of the presidency’s being an important office. Why? Because the president is the “example-in-chief” and both sets the tone for how we relate to each other and how our country is seen around the world.
Presidents should have leadership experience, of course, and they should have worked successfully with groups representing diverse views and backgrounds. But the desiderata I have in mind are personal. More specifically, they consider how a candidate might deal with people having varying views and backgrounds.
Desideratum 1: For example, presidential candidates should not do things that are offensive or otherwise inappropriate. Such things include ridiculing ideas and making fun of or otherwise embarrassing others. My recollection is that by the time someone graduates from high school, such things have lost their charm, and are seen as mean spirited and hurtful.
Desideratum 2: It is not only wrong but odious to say demeaning things about people with whom you disagree or whom you dislike. Speakers’ intentions here range from being merely unpleasant to downright demeaning by holding someone up to ridicule. The emphasis at such times is neither reconciliation of, nor understanding differences.
Desideratum 3: Presidential candidates should similarly neither seek out nor report personal information expected to be hurtful to others. Why? Because it opens them to unpleasantnesses ranging from embarrassments to lies, and then they have to devote time and effort to setting things right, which may include exhuming already resolved issues and having to take time for otherwise unnecessary actions.
Desideratum 4: Stay away from conspiracy theories. Why? Because while they cloak themselves in enough truth to claim the mantle of validity, their confabulation causes people to scratch their heads in confusion rather than take them seriously. People who propose such theories do so expecting that hearers will skip thinking and simply accept what they hear on its face. Does anyone you admire do that?
Desideratum 5: Avoid heinous viewpoints such as racism, sexism, or “LGBTQism” done in jest. For example, racist views of the world, of other people, of actions taken in the name of racism are the proper object of social research, social improvement, history, etc., because doing otherwise only disparages others and brings unflattering attention to whoever raises the topic. Most people are rightfully embarrassed by things like that.
Do these five desiderata bring any presidential candidates’ names to mind?
How about Roseanne Barr in 2012. Do you recall her history? Do you remember she was a presidential candidate? On the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.
In example one (1990), Barr was asked to sing the national anthem at a baseball game and, in the process, she ridiculed ball players by spitting and scratching herself as would someone adjusting an uncomfortable jock.
The second example (2018) found Barr reporting an online article claiming that a dark-skined baby emerged from a union between the Muslim Brotherhood and the movie “Planet of the Apes.” And, she suggested, the baby grew up to be a senior advisor to a U.S. president. She subsequently apologized for her actions claiming she made the remark at 2 a.m. because she’d been taking a sedative. The drug’s manufacturer then noted that “Racism is not a known side effect” of any of the company’s products.
The third example, in 2014, had Barr publishing the address of relatives of a person involved in a shooting. By making such private information public, she opened these innocent people to unwanted attention from others who felt it necessary to invade their privacy.
In example four (2018), Barr tweeted that a young man who’d survived a high school mass shooting had publicly done something suggesting extreme bigotry. Barr later deleted the tweet, presumably because it was patently untrue.
Example five (2009), had Barr posed as Hitler for a satirical magazine photoshoot. This elicited comments pointing out that she’d mocked the Holocaust, which caused the deaths of 6 million Jews and 4 million others -- not counting military losses -- and that “Hitler jokes are never funny.”
Bottom line? Maybe desirable personal attributes should expected of all candidates for the presidency.
Hank Slotnick is a retired UND professor who, with his wife, winters in Pima, Ariz., and summers in Debs.