Driving in St. Petersburg, Fla., last week I stopped for two women in a crosswalk. When I did so, a woman in a VW sped around me and, missing the pedestrians by a few feet (and winning an obscene gesture), advanced to the next red light, where I caught up with her. That's when I noticed two stickers on the back of her vehicle. One was a peace symbol, the other consisted of the words, "Kindness matters."
Any of us who drives has, at one time or another, done something that was reckless, stupid and, most certainly, unkind. That's bad enough. Somehow sporting a "Kindness matters" bumper sticker makes it worse. It's like having a bumper sticker announcing "I brake for animals," then running over somebody's pet. Even if the accident is unavoidable, one looks like a fool, if not a hypocrite. It might be better to forget the self-promoting bumper stickers, while still trying to do our best to brake for animals and show kindness to others.
I feel about campaign promises the same way I feel about bumper stickers. Candidates would be better off not making them -- certainly nothing as specific as "no new taxes" -- than making them and discovering they are unable to fulfill them or, because of changing circumstances, finding they no longer believe in them. Voters remember promises even when politicians don't.
Members of the clergy no longer wear clerical collars the way they once did. Nuns today are less likely to wear habits. I wonder if wearing such garb is something like having a "Kindness matters" bumper sticker. It somehow puts one on a higher standard, making one's behavior a matter of public inspection. How does one pass by a beggar while wearing a clerical collar?
Not that there's anything wrong with high standards. It's just that, as they say, better to walk the walk than just talk the talk.