E-Kvetcher has a post today about frum people in Chicago who voted twice for McCain in the recent presidential election -- once under their Hebrew name and once under their legal (English) name. I don't know (and E-Kvetcher doesn't tell us) whether this was racially motivated or whether they simply preferred McCain's policies. In any event, it doesn't really matter, I suppose.
What I find interesting is how we pay a lot of lip service to the idea of honesty in all our dealings -- even with non-Jews, and yet we simply fail miserably at following through in real life. There is a story often told about a Jew who consistently returned a few cents that he regularly received in excess change to a non-Jew postal clerk. Years later that very same non-Jew, impressed with the honesty and piety of the Jew, goes on to save him and other Jews from the Nazis. Other vesions of the story exist (with a shopkeep, or with the Czar instead of the Nazis, but they're all pretty much the same story). Who among us hasn't heard a story of this type? I know I've heard it countless times -- and it's a good story. The point being made is that if you conduct yourself with honesty, and treat people fairly, they will respect you and see you (and possibly your community) as people to be treated fairly.
Sadly, this lesson has been lost on today's generation. Today's generation looks at the story and misses the point entirely. Instead of seeing the message of "be honest, you never know what the consequences are," the message has become "be honest when it only costs you a few cents. A few cents may save you in the future." But when it comes to larger issues, honesty falls by the wayside.
Now, I don't want to suggest that this is a simply a frum problem -- it's not. There are plenty of people around the world of all stripes who are openly dishonest; and, as a firm believer in karma (aka Divine Justice) I beleive that they will eventually have to answer for it. But we tend to pay a great amount of lip service to the idea of honesty. We say that the seal of HKBH is truth. We're taught to be scrupulously honest -- even with non-Jews. And yet, time and again, we see examples where we fail to live up to the very ideals we profess to hold as the highest values.
I'm not suggesting that we should be perfect. I understand that Jews, like everyone else, are only human. We're all subject to temptations and failings. We all (myself included) find that sometimes we fall short of the mark. But that's fine -- as I said, we're human and not meant to be perfect. However, when it comes to the measure of a person's character, I sometimes feel that what's more important is the subsequent actions that a person takes. If a person steals someting, are they ashamed of the fact that they stole? Are they willing to make restitution (even secretly) and resolve to sin no more? Or are they proud of the fact that they got away with it? In other words, are they essentially honest people who simply slipped up once and gave in to temptation, or are they simply dishonest people?
Much of our halachic system is built on the idea of trust and personal integrity. How do I know that the food Eeees prepares for my dinner is kosher? Because I trust her. How do I know when I go to a restaurant or somone's home that they food they serve is kosher? Trust. I rely on thier personal honesty. How do I know my tefillin and mezzuos are written in order (if they are written out of order, they are invalid -- and this is not something that can be caught on inspection)? Again, we rely on the honesty of the sofer. Heck, how did we know that the Kohen Gadol in the Temple performed the ketores service in the proper way? Sure, he was made to swear that he'd do it the right way, but once he swore, we relied on his honesty that he would carry out his oath. In short, much of our halachic system is built on the idea of personal honesty. To see it so casually battered in public speaks volumes, I believe, about how we've lost our way and how we've lost sight of what truly is one of the major underpinnings of our religion.
(EDIT: I suppose I was unclear in the post. I didn't mean to suggest that there is rampant election fraud in Chicago [or anywhere else]. The post wasn't really about the election, but the open dishonesty in general [collecting sales tax comes to mind] that goes on in our community. The election fraud is just an example. My apologies for all those who were misled by my post.)