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Being Honorable

For me, that meant resigning from the State Department and now resisting our new president’s vision of America.

illustration of immigration rally in NYC

Reportage illustration, NYC Immigration Rally By Veronica Lawlor

“My life was not short enough for me to not do the things I wanted not to do,” is the lament playwright Tom Stoppard puts in the mouth of the hero, British poet A. E. Housman, in The Invention of Love. That bleakness resonates for me. The storybooks of my childhood were infused with the idea that people should be honorable. But that honor was always deeply tinged in self-denial. Its cloud of meaning, which includes pride, dignity, legitimacy, satisfaction, and happiness, is inseparable from the self-loathing that wracks me when I yield to impulse and violate rules of behavior I impose on myself. Desire to protect my fragile honor, not fear of punishment, drives me to conduct myself as a good citizen and not grab at every pussy within reach.Honor is thus a very fine thing, if a humane philosophy is the basis of our self-restraint. Without it, squeamishness, vanity, or the prevailing fashion gets exalted into a code of ethics. The ancient Greeks and Israelites were more concerned with rules of ritual purity than with rules of good conduct. It was okay to rape your slave, for example, but not during her me …

Brady Kiesling is an archaeologist/ancient historian by training. He entered the Foreign Service in 1983 and served in Israel, Morocco, Greece, Washington, and Armenia, before returning to Athens as chief of the political section of the U.S. Embassy in 2000. He is the author of Diplomacy Lessons: Realism for an Unloved Superpower and recently created a free app called Topostext, which links the ancient writings of Greece to their historic sites.

About the Author

Brady Kiesling trained as an archaeologist/ancient historian and is the creator of ToposText, a free app that links the ancient writings of Greece to their historical sites. 

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