Magnanimity, Aquinas tells us, is a virtue; and if you’re interested to learn more, our friends at Godzdogz provided a clear insight into it in their post on 14 August last year.
Now I appreciate that Aquinas tells us that magnanimity is about achieving – or seeking to achieve – great deeds; but in everyday usage magnanimity may also be about small things, providing they are small things directed to a great end.
I’ve just spent an exhausting night watching the election results come in; and something particularly struck me at the Election Count in Brighton – the results of the first of the three counts at which did not come in until about 05:00, and the last until just before the Regina Cæli at 06:00.
Why do I mention this ? Well, not because of the election of England’s first Green MP. Fr Ray has already drawn attention to this here; and her remarks after her election, at least about the other parties, could hardly be described as magnanimous.
Instead I’m thinking of the unsuccessful Liberal Democrat candidate in the Brighton Kemptown constituency.
She was obviously, in common with most people, utterly exhausted by 05:30 when her result was declared; and she had not won. I’m sure you are familiar with the pattern; the candidate who has been elected makes a short – and hopefully modest – speech thanking all concerned; and then all the other candidates, in turn, do the same rather more briefly – primarily to thank those who have helped them.
This lady did this : but then turned and wished the newly-elected Conservative candidate well in his parliamentary career – as far as I could tell, the only one of all the candidates in the three Brighton & Hove seats to do so. (Indeed, I can’t think of anyone else who did anywhere; but that may just have been the television editing.)
As I said; she was obviously exhausted, and I am sure she must also have been bitterly disappointed at the result (the Observer, on Sunday, suggested quite strongly that she might win) : but she could find the strength, the courtesy, the graciousness, and the generosity, to wish her opponent well.
It may not be quite the theological virtue of magnanimity that Aquinas meant : but I think it was a good example of traditional British magnanimity in defeat; and I wish she hadn’t been the only person who did it. I am sure it says much for her character that she did it; and I wish her well if only because of that.