Too much of a good thing

Lots to post (about ALA, a show I saw, books I'm reading) but not enough time until this weekend - massive project on at MPOW.

Did want to talk a little about this headline: Bush Spares Libby 30-Month Jail Term (NYTimes - other takes here) Leaving aside the ramifications for the Bush administration, the crime involved or any other political discussion, I want to talk about Loyalty. It's something we teach our students (or children, depending): stay loyal to your friends, to your team, to your family. Loyalty is a good thing, it's the right thing. It's not going to a July 4th party with one friend because you'd said you'd go to a bridal shower for another; it's believing in, and standing up for, them, even when it's not popular or convenient. It's not dating your best friend's ex. It's the Spartacus moment in a relationship.

What's interesting to me is that Bush has loyalty - in spades. He's consistently supported and backed "his" people, unlike Clinton, who made a habit of distancing himself immediately when things got rough. We should be admiring Bush's ability and willingness to stand by people that he feels loyal to; instead we denigrate him for not knowing when to dump them or throw them to the wolves.

Sometimes I think that between the two presidential styles lies the ideal. Or does it? Should we ever teach our children that political (or financial, or romantic) expediency is better than loyalty?


camillofan said...

As an Ethics teacher, I've never been convinced that Loyalty is everything it's cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong; I'm not advocating the opposite. But Loyalty is not an absolute virtue. David Kaczynski, the Unabomber's brother, might be said to have violated it, but in that kind of a case, give me a Snitch any day. (I know; extreme example. But still...) As a parent, I've tried to model loyalty in my choices and actions, but I've also taught my sons that sometimes there are higher values.

Sherri said...

I'm with Camillolfan here. I'm not sure loyalty is as valuable, as, say, honesty. A feeling of loyalty could prevent a child, say, from telling a teacher or other adult about a friend's eating disorder, dangerous sexual activity, drug use, alcohol use, shoplifting, bullying, or any number of other behaviors. It's tattling, it's telling. It's condoning behavior through silence. But it can be called loyalty.

I'd even say your example of the party is more a matter of being honest and responsible than loyalty -- one gives one's word about something, one sticks to it and doesn't lie or evade. And even honesty, sometimes, can be used for ill (do you REALLY need to know how much I hate your dress, for example? It might be my honest opinion, but it serves no purpose to tell you that except to aggrandize me and make you feel awful.)

For me, in my little world. loyalty is sticking with someone even when they do wrong, but not excusing, denying or covering the wrong. It's still going over to visit the friend who has a drug problem to watch a movie, offering to study with the friend who isn't doing so well -- but not letting them copy my answers, or not gossiping about the friend who is breaking up a relationship. And loyalty means doing the best you can in a friend's best interests, even if it means they have to suffer for their own actions.