With recent shakeups in presidential cabinet, it has frequently been observed that quality most treasured in present administration is that of loyalty.
Is that such an admirable quality?
We prize loyalty of our friends who protect our good name when we are not present. We respect loyalty of committed couples who stay true to each other no matter outside temptations. We recognize loyalty of employees who stand by their ethics and keep competitors and enemies at bay. We treasure loyalty of a soldier to his commander, if necessary to death. We revere loyalty of believers in their god and their unswerving commitment to their tenets of faith. We equate disloyalty with treason, dishonor, betrayal. We use names like Quisling, Benedict Arnold, Burgess and Hiss as epithets to express our loathing and disgust.
But loyalty has a darker side. In crime families, loyalty means embracing death or imprisonment rather than exposing crime, violence, and murder. In prison, most despised inmate is "snitch" who fails to stay silent about his knowledge of criminal acts, plots, and planned violence. Within adolescent groups and street gangs, rule of silence and total loyalty is an absolute requirement for continued membership.
The old courts of kings and emperors were rife with sycophants: whatever leader wanted to hear, they offered. Disagreements and alternative plans for direction of governance were considered intrigue - dangerous differences of opinion to be rooted out and permanently excised from body politic.
Where does White House fit in? For all positive connotations that loyalty may engender, we must look to extent it is used and continually monitor it for abuse. No one would suggest that a President surround himself with staff who constantly criticize his ideas or regularly publicly disagree with his programs and proposals. However, negative aspect of over-loyalty - zealousness - must be confronted if goal is to weave plans for common good through compromise in face of diverse opinion.