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.”

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Youngstown, Ohio - Anywhere America!

I have been absent from this blog for some time. It is hard to balance writing for someone else and for yourself. This assignment will end and I will return to posting on this blog shortly.

It is also difficult to know exactly what to write about these days. There is so much bad in the world, it is quite overwhelming. Be it the chaos in Iraq or the growing threat we created in Iran. Be it the issues with immigration in this country or immigrant unrest in Europe. Be it the continual decline of our environment by a President who couches that destruction in the rhetorical guise of environmental stewardship. Be it our “strong” economy which is creating more and more millionaires and makes the rich even richer while swelling the ranks of the poor.

Our country is a failure. Our experiment in liberal democracy is a failure. I hate to sound like a socialist, but if you want to help our economy you should kill a rich man! They are ruining us. There is a group of wealthy people born of the philosophy of Andrew Carnegie, which believe that they grow wealthy (in matters of soul, if not in matters of finance) when we all prosper. But they are a paltry minority. The rich don’t give a damn about you if you are poor. They will suck your life and your work ethic in an effort to leave a few extra nickels to leave to their lazy and stupid progeny. Make no mistake that this country was not only built by the blood, sweat and tears of the poor. It was also paved with their bones!

I feel nothing but hatred for George W. Bush and his filthy, evil cabal. The worst is that they sedate us with tales of Christian morality. I hope his bible study group enjoys their meetings as they rot in the fires of HELL!

That said, I leave you with the words of a man who says it better then I ever could. The song is Youngstown. The poet is Bruce Springsteen! Viva la revolution!

Here in north east Ohio
Back in eighteen-o-three
James and Danny Heaton
Found the ore that was linin' yellow creek
They built a blast furnace
Here along the shore
And they made the cannon balls
That helped the union win the war

Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

Well my daddy worked the furnaces
Kept 'em hotter than hell
I come home from 'Nam worked my way to scarfer
A job that'd suit the devil as well
Taconite, coke and limestone
Fed my children and made my pay
Then smokestacks reachin' like the arms of god
Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay

Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works
When he come home from world war two
Now the yards just scrap and rubble
He said, "Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do"
These mills they built the tanks and bombs
That won this country's wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
Now we're wondering what they were dyin' for

Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

From the Monongaleh valley
To the Mesabi iron range
To the coal mines of Appalacchia
The story's always the same
Seven-hundred tons of metal a day
Now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name

In Youngstown
In Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

When I die I don't want no part of heaven
I would not do heavens work well
I pray the devil comes and takes me
To stand in the fiery furnaces of hell

Copyright © Bruce Springsteen