Webster-Merriam’s online dictionary lists 10 different meanings for the word “honor,” starting with “good name or public esteem” and going all the way down to card games in which Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks are known as “honors.”

It’s the eighth meaning that matters to me in this discussion, though, and it’s that eighth meaning that says so much about what is wrong with us these days.

8 a: a keen sense of ethical conduct : integrity (wouldn’t do it as a matter of honor) b: one’s word given as a guarantee of performance (on my honor, I will be there).

Does honor matter anymore, either in politics or in business?

We heard a lot in the recent presidential campaign about John McCain as a man of honor, but while McCain generally comported himself well, there was a lot of dishonorable stuff going on around him that he didn’t stop.

McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, certainly has displayed very little honor, either during the campaign or in her interviews since. She continues to harp on Bill Ayers as if he were Barack Obama’s closest friend instead of just an acquaintance.

Earlier this year, after more than 28 years as a journalist, I lost my job. Even though I know I was set up to be fired, I blame myself for allowing myself to be put in a vulnerable position.

The fact is, though, I was working for a man without honor. I had seen it during earlier layoffs and firings, but I didn’t say anything about it because I wasn’t affected.

Indeed, a few years back when 2 percent of our employees were laid off because of “difficult conditions,” I had wondered out loud why we all just couldn’t volunteer to take a 2 percent pay cut to save our colleagues’ jobs.

It wouldn’t have worked, because the layoffs were about more than just cutting jobs. They were about scaring the remaining 98 percent into taking on additional work without additional pay.

A “we’re all in this together” attitude would have given us — the employees — a feeling of controlling our destiny, which of course was the last thing our employer wanted.

Managing through intimidation may work, but it isn’t an honorable way to go.

It’s the same thing Bush and Cheney have employed for the last seven-plus years. They certainly don’t tell us we can protect ourselves, or that we can control our own lives.

Nope, these terrorists are so evil that we have to surrender our civil liberties to them.

Effective? Maybe, but far from honorable.

I often wonder what would happen if a new president asked for half an hour of prime time on four successive Monday nights to talk to people about why it’s important to save money, why buying on credit can be a terrible idea, how the media (both left and right) subtly slants the news and how the military-industrial complex controls so much of the debate in terms of setting the agenda.

In other words, give people the information they need to live better lives without government help.

I talked to a number of people I know and respect, and the general consensus was that such a president could never be elected — too honorable — and that if he/she were elected, those broadcasts would never be allowed.

Folks, we’re so far down the rabbit hole we can’t even see the beginning anymore.

We may never make it out, but adding “honor” and “integrity” back to what we expect of people might be a start.

A pretty good one, in fact.

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