Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


What kind of a man is our governor?

Do you want to know what happens when a person starts to write a regular newspaper column? Others start emailing and contacting the columnist with ideas. This week's main topic: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and his admitted affair.

I have little to add, other than sadness and disappointment about what is bubbling up all around the country: men behaving badly, despicably, potentially criminally. It is deflating, because I know America is better than the sexual morass spread by so many elites. What is it that causes men in high positions of influence to betray the values they profess?

With Greitens, we will know more over time. As state representative Donna Lichtenegger told this newspaper, "Right now there is an investigation going on and my husband (who is an attorney) told me long ago to keep your mouth shut if you don't know anything."

What I do know is that Peggy Noonan's column over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal resonated with me: "America Needs More Gentlemen".

Here are some excerpts:

"All the stories we've read the past few months about predators -- not those accused of rape and sexual assault, which are crimes, but of general piggishness, grabbiness, manipulation and power games -- have a common thread. The men involved were not gentlemen. They acted as if they'd never heard of the concept.

"We have lost track of it. In the past 40 years, in the movement for full equality, we threw it over the side. But we should rescue that old and helpful way of being. The whole culture, especially women, needs The Gentleman back. ...

"... There are a million definitions of what a gentleman is, and some begin with references to being born to a particular standing. But in America any man could be one who had the guts to withstand the demands. ...

"A gentleman is good to women because he has his own dignity and sees theirs. He takes opportunities to show them respect. He is not pushy, manipulative, belittling. He stands with them not because they are weak but because they deserve friendship. ...

"It goes deeper than memorizing and repeating certain behaviors, such as standing when a woman or an older person enters the room. That is a physical expression of inner regard. Being a gentleman involves not only manners but morals. The 19th-century theologian John Henry Newman -- an Anglican priest who became a Catholic cardinal -- said a gentleman tries not to inflict pain. He tries to remove the obstacles 'which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him.' He is 'tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absurd. . . . He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage.'

"... The age of social media has worked against the ideas of decorum, dignity and self-control -- the idea of being a gentleman. You can, anonymously, be your lowest, most brutish self, and the lowering spreads like a virus.

"But you can't judge a nation by its comment threads, or let's hope so. You can judge it by its struggle to maintain standards. For inspiration we end with Hollywood, with Jimmy Stewart in 'The Philadelphia Story.' The character played by Katharine Hepburn makes a pass at him, and he notes he could have taken advantage of the moment but she'd been drinking and 'there are rules about that.'

"Here's to the rules, and the gentlemen who help keep them alive."

When I covered Washington, D.C. as a reporter long ago, one thing I learned quickly was how national reporters fed off controversy. Political figures who held extreme positions -- or attacked others -- were more likely to be quoted, especially on TV, because it created drama, which attracted more viewers.

Covering Capitol Hill, I was impressed by how many good men and women were plugging along, serving their country, not seeking to blow things up, but rather, to have an impact through dignified, serious work. I think of that now as the headlines undercut the image of so many influencers. Just because there are selfish pigs out there, doesn't mean everyone -- or even most people -- are that way. To the gentlemen of the world, thank you for being you. Not everyone may recognize you for how noble you are. But, God does.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.