Friday, October 9, 2020

Character Study

“ It was not in the nature of things that a man of Mr. Dombey’s mood, opposed to such a spirit as he had raised against himself, should be softened in the imperious asperity of his temper; or that the cold hard armor of pride in which he lived encased, should be made more flexible by constant collision with haughty scorn and defiance. It is the curse of such a nature—it is a main part of the heavy retribution on itself it bears with itself—that while deference and concession swell its evil qualities, and are the food it grows upon, resistance and a questioning of its exacting claims, foster it too, no less. The evil that is in it finds equally its means of growth and propagation in opposites. It draws support and life from sweets and bitters; bowed down before, or unacknowledged, it still enslaves the breast in which it has its throne; and worshipped or rejected, is as hard a master as the Devil in dark fables. “                

-       Charles Dickens; Dombey and Son; p. 647

 

Read that over again. Slowly. Our soundbyte vocabulary is not tuned to the depth and sophistication of Dickens, but with some effort, we can figure out that this description of someone imprisoned in “the cold hard armor of pride” keeps that intact, grows it yet harder and more impenetrable, by the deference of the fawning people around him. But then the surprising insight that it also thrives on those who oppose it, that resistance makes it dig in its heels yet deeper. In short, having chosen to hide from life in that hardened shell, to be incapable of flexibility or gentle emotion or care for anyone beyond one self, is to wreak havoc on one’s own soul and all of those around one. 

 

Sound familiar? Having contracted the disease that it denied, there was a brief moment of “now I understand it.” And then just when I was ready to believe in a just God, there was the inexplicable mildness of the case and the new position, “Hey, it’s nothing. Nobody should be afraid of it.” (Is God keeping him alive so he can end his days in jail?) There simply is no hope for any redemption in a person like this. 

 

That’s sad, of course, for the person, but catastrophic for those around him. Especially when “those around him” are an entire nation. These are the most dangerous people to put into positions of power. Please, voters, keep this in mind. Character counts. 

 

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