When I was in grade school back in the "Old Country", I lived in the city but the Jewish day school I attended was out in the suburbs. We had to get to the nearby Jewish Community Center and from there we were bussed to our school. It sounds bad, getting bussed from the city to the suburb, but it was really a great experience. We had twenty minutes to ourselves, a horde of kids on a bus in the old days without seatbelts, without rules that we bother to keep because there wasn't a single adult on the bus to watch over us… except the driver.
Now, if you were once a kid on a bus ride you know that kids sing… all kinds of songs. One of our favorites that we sang, of course as we sat in the back of the bus, where all of the cool kids sat, far from the driver, was this:
"Here is to our bus driver
With us today –
He drinks and he smokes
And he tells dirty jokes."
The adult question is: were this to be true, that the bus driver drinks, smokes and tells dirty jokes – is that relevant to his doing the job well? Smoking and telling dirty jokes may not make him the greatest role model, but they don't impinge on his driving. If he drinks and drives – that's obviously a big no-no. But what if he drinks, moderately, at social occasions and perhaps goes on a rare binge while on vacation from driving? Well – then, too, it doesn't influence his doing the job.
That reminds me of the great story about President Lincoln and General Grant. There were people who whispered into
Lincoln's ear the rumor that Grant drank whiskey, copiously. Taking into account that Grant was one of the few Union generals winning battles, Lincoln replied that if so – he would want to know which brand of whiskey Grant was prone to and send a barrel to all the other Union generals! It may not be a true story, but it's a good one.
Because it illustrates that a person may have a particular default in one sphere of life, and yet be absolutely competent in other spheres and endeavors that may be much more important. So the question is not if the driver smokes and tells dirty jokes, which may disqualify him from being a teacher and role model for young students. The pertinent question is: is he a good driver?
In the election campaign we're living through we ought to ask ourselves: are we voting for the 120 righteous people of the year, or are we voting for people who can run the country, despite the fact that they may occasionally drink or smoke or tell an impolite joke. I'm not really interested in the candidate's family unless it directly relates to the candidate's competence to hold high office.
The last stanza of our favorite bus-ride song was this:
"God bless him, he NEEDS it!"Don't we all need a blessing, especially the people running our beloved country?!