Periodically, when my children learn about a major historic figure, if that person changed the world for the better, they’ll ask “was so-and-so a good person?” What’s interesting is how often that question is difficult to answer.
The Founders, for the most part, seem to have been surprisingly good human beings. That is, in their private lives, they lived up to the same ethics of decency and respect they tried to create for their new country. I’ve also always liked Churchill, both as a politician and a person, although he could be brutal to his enemies, at home and abroad. Napoleon freed the Jews from their European ghettos, but he also tried to take over the Western world and was the first semi-modern political leader to establish concentration camps. Gandhi liberated India from British rule, but he was, in my estimation, a loathsome individual (in part because he was an antisemite). I’ve even heard that Mother Theresa was no a nice person to hang around.
My sense is that someone who has the single mindedness to take on the world, for good or evil, isn’t going to be an easy going person. Instead, these trailblazers are going to be intense, often monomaniacal people, who don’t have room in the mental lives for ordinary nicecities, or even common morality.
What do you think?