College Admissions Essay: The Need for a Higher Power in Politics


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A president cheats on his wife, then lies about it. A speaker of the House makes thousands of dollars in an illegal book deal. Both political parties are caught trying to sneak campaign contributions under the table... Every time we open the morning paper, another scandal has been exposed, another political savior has fallen to earth, another mess has to be mopped up. With each exposé, the state of American politics seems to have sunk to an all-new low.

Yet somehow we always remain optimistic. Each time another leader's misdeed is unearthed, we sigh, punish the offending politician, and hope for the best, believing that his behavior will be an anomaly, and that our system will march onward. But if these ethical lapses are simply apparitions, just blips on our collective moral radar screen, why do they occur with such regularity? Shouldn't the country be able to discover leaders immune to such failures?

 

Instead, those placed in power repeat the errors of their predecessors, sometimes in even more serious ways. We seem to have a knack for choosing new leaders with the same fatal flaws as the old ones. Are these leaders being corrupted by a morally bankrupt system, or is the pool of candidates for public service so shallow that all we can find are bottom feeders? The answer to all these questions is quite simple yet, at the same time, difficult for many to accept. For the root of the problem is this: Political leaders, like all men, have a basic propensity towards evil. In theological circles, this concept is known as "inherent sin nature," but it doesn't matter how you put it - men are basically selfish, greedy, lecherous, nasty little fellows.

 

This corrupt personality is nothing new. It was well diagnosed long ago by no less a mind than that of Plato. "How charming people are!" he wrote in his Republic, "Always doctoring, increasing and complicating their disorders, fancying they will be cured by some nostrum which somebody advises them to try, never getting better, but always growing worse. ... Are they not as good as a play, trying their hand at legislation, and imagining that by reforms they will make an end to the dishonesties and rascalities of mankind - not knowing that in reality they are cutting away at the head of a hydra?"

 

Power, then, does not create man's nasty character.

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Instead, it simply augments and exposes it. To better understand, one could think of man as a tall tower, built on a marshy plot of property and uneasily resting on cheap materials. If a rainstorm and a strong breeze come along, the tower is bound to start leaning and eventually will fall. The wind doesn't cause the leaning; it just brings to light the shoddy foundation. This is, of course, not a popular theory of why people do inappropriate things. It's much more pleasant to think of man as a generally nice guy, a character who might perhaps slip up once in a while, but except for those indiscretions is generally decent, and getting better all the time.

 

And most philosophies, no matter how they see the world, pretty much view man in this way. But this way of looking at man doesn't explain away the fact that he is messing up a good deal of the time, and often in quite wretched ways. The only way to make up for this incongruity is to admit that we're all basically immoral, and that those in power get more of a chance to follow through with this propensity, and therefore are more often exposed for it.

 

So what's to be done? Should our system of government be changed to get the power out of the clutches of all this flawed pool of people? The most obvious of such changes would be to put more control into the hands of a few good men. Such a solution, though, would not come near the heart of the problem. It ignores the previously stated fact that there are no good men. Giving more control to a few people has been tried before, and since the people with the power always end up behaving selfishly, things just get worse.

 

The answer then can't come from a change in systems if the people in the system remain as they are. Then where should the change take place? Once again, it is not a popular answer, but the change must take place in people's hearts. And since people don't seem capable of changing themselves, no matter how many 12-step programs they endure, then the source of that change must come from some outside source. And the only source of that change is a belief in a higher power.

 

Politicians are hopelessly flawed. They can't seemingly change their natures. And neither, unfortunately, can we. That leaves one option: letting a higher power do the changing. Otherwise, today's headlines will be the same as yesterday's.



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