Saturday, May 06, 2006

“Greatness is a road leading toward the unknown…”

It is a difficult time to find oneself deeply involved in the political process. We are faced with an overwhelming litany of critical issues and yet we are completely without a leader. When I say we, I am not talking about the Democratic Party, of which I am a loyal member, but rather the United States. Not only is our President not leading us, there is no one stepping in to fill that rather astronomical void. With a war in Iraq, a war against terrorists, a ballooning chasm between the poor and the rich, a swelling number of people who are not only uninsured but under-insured, a school system which is leaving more and more children ill-equipped to face the challenges of increased international competition, leadership is what we sorely need.

Clearly none of these issues has an easy solution and most will take many years to rectify and bring about healthy and efficient solutions, but with the clear absence of leadership that we face in this country, I fear the situation will worsen before it improves.

Charles De Gaulle once said: “Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown.” I have thought about this quote for many years. I always liked it for its ambiguous optimism, but I am not sure that I understood it until now. I think what De Gaulle meant was that a leader pushes forward despite the fact that he or she knows not what lies ahead. Leading in the face of uncertainty is a sign of greatness.

Our times are marked by cowardly leaders who do not take action without a poll of a poll and a focus group which is statistically analyzed and weighted to adjust for ethnic discrepancies. By this measure, Bill Clinton, while a highly intelligent leader, was not a great man. In the aftermath of September 11th, George W. Bush was presented with the opportunity to demonstrate greatness. He was faced with unprecedented circumstances that could not be polled. He was faced with the absolute unknown and he failed the test. This was, of course, inevitable. George W. Bush is among the most unremarkable leaders that this country has ever had. Not only is W not great, he is downright mediocre. To his credit, he has sailed according to his own compass. With greatness assisting in navigation, this is a good thing, but Bush was bound to foul it all up.

Despite this mediocrity; Kerry, with the benefit of hindsight, is also not a great man. The difference is that Kerry was a good and intelligent man.

Where is our Washington, our Lincoln, our Roosevelt, or our Kennedy? The men I have just mentioned faced some of the greatest challenges ever faced by our country, and instead of dividing our country, they brought us together. Washington was the first great unifier. In the infancy of our country Washington bridged the gap between federalists and anti-federalists and took a massive amount of grief from both sides. Lincoln came to office just in time to watch our fractious union disintegrate. Not only did Lincoln not shirk his responsibility. He faced civil war bravely and unapologetically and did so with a cabinet filled with his fiercest critics. FDR jumped in head first to the Great Depression and successfully rebuilt our economy and prepared us for inevitable war. John F. Kennedy’s keen analytical mind allowed him to remain calm and make sound choices in the face of really bad advice during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

How did George W. Bush unite our country in the aftermath of September 11th? He played the very blame game that three years later he claimed he would not engage in after Hurricane Katrina. W’s response to 9/11 was to paint his political opponents as terrorist sympathizers. Instead of being a unifier, Bush opted for the cheap political score. As we face more uncertainty, it is clear why we will never return to greatness under the reign of President Bush. People do not respond greatly when faced with mediocrity. The sad thing is that no one has not stepped forward to fill the void who has displayed even the slightest hint of greatness.

The American people, despite the bilge reported in the press, want to be united. Conservative and liberal; religious, agnostic, or atheist; rich and poor; this country hungers for unity. We know it is the only thing that will save our dying republic, “for which it stands, with liberty and justice for all.”

1 comment:

missgraciegirl said...

i remember when i was young, feeling a great sense of envy towards your country...

your GREAT country..
home of the free
land of the brave
motherland of freedom
and success
and pride...

now, not so much.