LEADERSHIP

I’d ask that you factor a few thoughts into your decision-making process when you choose our President in November. We often become so immersed in personalities that we lose sight of the mission and prime directive of our leader: to rally the energy and commitment of our entire nation to address the issues that affect our lives and our future. No single person has all the answers. No single person can solve all the problems by himself. We are a national team and our President is our coach, if you’ll indulge a sporting metaphor.

Our President must make the decision on play calls and the game plan but we the citizens execute them. When President Kennedy first spoke of America’s intention to go to the moon, he wasn’t a rocket scientist. He had no formulas for fuel or rocket telemetry. But he had the personality, the audacity, the vision to challenge us to achieve a great endeavor. And within eight years, on July 20th, 1969 that intention became a reality. It was achieved because of America’s greatness – in technology, organization, courage and optimism.

Kennedy didn’t design the means to reach the moon, yet he inspired America to make that historic leap into space. That is the hallmark of leadership, the ability to rally disparate elements into a cohesive whole, a team, pulling in unison. I know little of inside politics but I do have some personal knowledge of the value of leadership. The ability to win the trust and confidence of men in battle, asking them to commit their very lives to my decisions and orders was a weighty responsibility. It was not taken lightly and it resonates for a lifetime, however long that life may be. My job seldom involved the taking of life; rather it engaged the calculus of how best to defeat the enemy, yet sustain minimal losses. So I measure my value in combat not by personal deeds but by my example, leadership and proficiency in asking and getting the very best from my soldiers.

That is the task at hand. Which candidate can most successfully challenge and inspire Americans to put aside their differences and pull together? Our present problems seem at times insurmountable, daunting without question.

Success will require uncommon unity of purpose. But if, like me, somewhere within you still exists a spark of that legendary American CAN DO pride, if you’re old enough to remember when we were respected and celebrated as the grandest political experiment in the history of man…then perhaps you’re ready to hitch up your pants and huddle up for the next play. Then break the huddle to your position and run the next play…and the one after that…and keep executing and getting up and pressing forward until the final whistle blows.

That’s how we roll, America. That’s why we are America. Let’s play together and let’s play to win!

28 August 2008
On this day, the first African-American, Barack Obama accepted his party’s nomination to be President of the United States of America.

WORD

That’s what Microsoft tells me this software is called. It seems an appropriate title for what I hope to express with economy and clarity: that today I feel as pessimistic for our future and as sad for our nation as at any time in my life. I’m not certain just why today is so different from any other day in recent memory; I just known it’s so.

I sense an abundance of cynicism, hatred, willful ignorance and racism in equal amounts among my countrymen. Polls generally offer anonymity; even so I suspect many polled give opinions reflecting the kind of person, the kind of rational thinking representative of someone with whom they’d aspire to be associated. Many more have few considerations about expressing their distrust, contempt or outright hatred for Obama – and pollsters opinions be damned.

But we now live in a globally connected cyberworld…and posting from the relative anonymity of screen names, the sheer multitude of the illiterate, rabid, misinformed and willfully mistaken is overwhelming. There is a reason that FOX news enjoys such dominant ratings – they preach to a choir of tens of millions of Americans who are unwilling to compare the relative merits of two candidates and concede however gracelessly that one is clearly more able to begin the very long (and perhaps impossible) process of righting our ship of state.

I don’t hate John McCain. There are times I actually like him, (he is a veteran) but more often, I feel sorry for him. But you know what? We survived (or so it would appear) eight years of incompetence and venality from the administration of George W Bush. That says something about the resilience of America. I suspect we could survive four more years of a McCain presidency. I doubt he’ll make things markedly better; he may well further our decline…but we’ll still be here. On life support maybe, but as long as there’s a pulse, there’s hope…

I reserve my hatred for the jackals, the remora that enable and encourage the madding crowd to their worst excesses. By that I mean, the Rove’s, the Hannity’s, the Limbaugh’s and their ilk. They know that they dissemble, that they misdirect, that they lie and fan the passions of those far less able to reason. Why? Is it just about money? They are all far richer than the vast majority of their camp followers might ever dream to be. Is it about power? To what end, should it bring a mighty economy and nation down to its knees?

Games are played to be won. I’ll give the Right props for their willingness to play to win, by whatever means necessary. And I do mean whatever! But consider our outrage at the N.E. Patriots for taping opposing signals, at athletes for using performance enhancing drugs, at banks for employing unethical lending practices. Win, sure; succeed, absolutely – this is the American Way… but surely lines exist to distinguish between honorable competitiveness and outright criminality. Aren’t there?

Well, hell, at some point in my life I’m sure I bought into Santa Claus and maybe even the Easter Bunny. I outgrew that naivete…yet, perhaps not. Because in recent months, I’d bought into the myth that a man of color might actually become the leader of my country, a demonstration of the progress towards racial equality that had been achieved, in my own lifetime! Movement and significant progress, yes. And the candidate was someone of intelligence and charisma, someone with whom I might enjoy sharing a beer and conversation. Given that’s hardly a worthy measure for such a decision – but still…

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. Obama may aspire to be the post-racial candidate but America remains a nation deeply divided by its’ racial perceptions. Racism is bone deep. Racism is where we live. And in a nation where (not that many years removed) a person of color feared being lynched, simply for being seen carrying a newspaper…”because a nigger that reads is dangerous.”

Lately, Obama is being described (by those willing to harbor such perceptions and they are legion) as arrogant, egotistical, elitist. Obama is the quintessential “uppity nigger”and therefore must be put in his place…lest others of his color (or leanings) become emboldened. And then, God help us! God (or Somebody) had damn well better step up!

I’m thinking that America doesn’t deserve President Barack Obama. He is too intelligent, too thoughtful, too decent a candidate for todays America and Americans. We often question why, in so large and mighty a nation, our candidates seem so often mediocre; rarely representing our best and our brightest. Historians may someday point to this election to illustrate the flaws and conflicts of America in 2008.

We have become a culture of silly superficiality. America no longer believes in its own fundamental tenets… yet we continue to sell them to the world at large (and despite themselves, they continue to buy into it!) Pretty much everyone else wants so desperately to believe that such a place as America might exist in this fucked-up world.

While they were waiting to break thru their barbed wire and cross guarded borders, we were busy getting soft, spoiled, entitled, fat, lazy and arrogant. And the worst of us, our crassest materialists now plunder and corrupt the promise of this historic accident. Yeah, accident. You think freedom is easy? Take a look at history. If a free society were easy, it would have been damn sight more common over the millennia, doncha think?

Today Obama announced his choice for veep: Joe Biden. I’m pleased for I’ve been touting Biden ever since the debates. He may be soon re-named “O’Biden” but no matter ; ) It’s a very compelling ticket. Now let’s see. Should McCain tab Romney (and well he may) this will present a very compelling comparison. Two very wealthy, very different, very personally fractious teammates.

Back to race. Those in national politics are wealthy by most standards (and I mean the McCain yardstick of $5 mil ; ) It takes wealth to run for office and clearly the opportunity to line ones pockets, during and after national service is self-evident. Less- than-wealthy Republicans are an oxymoron; the absence of excess holdings suggests you’re not very good at your job if you didn’t enrich yourself in the process.

Compare this to the tens of millions of seriously poor and struggling lower and middle class in white America. It’s always fascinated me that such economic disparity unites. They are generally disadvantaged by Republican economic policies and really don’t seem to mind it. What appears to drive them are Right Wing social policies that affirm their sense of entitlement and status. Poor Republicans blame The Immigrants, The Blacks, The Liberals and their Liberal Agenda – sexual permissiveness, pro-choice, social welfare, affirmative action, et. al.

Yeah, they do cling to their guns and their religion…and to their enduring willingness to scapegoat The Others. There is a perception that many of us dearly wish to find true: that in 2008, the younger generation is less encumbered with enduring racial bias than their ancestors. You really think so? When you’ve the time, check the posts left by those online as they discuss current events. Many if not most of these posters are younger than 40. They are cyber-literate, in that they can manage to post. They are demonstratively illiterate when it comes to the English language. Forget ‘spellcheck’. They need ‘thinkcheck’ or ‘reasoncheck’. These posters have bought into the mindset and tactics of the Right and parrot their talking points without regard for reality or logic.

I suspect many have not finished high school or higher education. Many are unskilled and unemployed or underemployed…and they are bitter. And this bitterness leads them to hold negative views towards those they perceive as the reason for their failure. Their world view regarding people of color is consistently disparaging and resentful, whether we’re speaking of sports, entertainment, politics, business, culture or crime. Their posts, largely anonymous, consist of hatred, envy, anger, contempt and uninformed ignorance. I am not encouraged to believe that their perceptions will change simply because of a new administration.

I expect the next several years to be filled with massive new challenges as well as problems evident now – economics, war, climate change and terrorism. We need everyone’s help in the days to come. My fondest hope is that dissidents will sit on their hands and root for failure. My greatest fear is that they will actively seek to subvert future efforts to clean up this present mess.

22 Aug ’08

Running Scared

I’m watching “Hannity and Colmes” on FOX last nite and…Whaddaya mean, “Why am I watching FOX News?” You don’t know me. That’s how I roll! “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

So anyway, Sean and Dick Morris are tag-teaming on the latest racial shitstorm regarding McCains TV ad, which features Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton and Obama. Bob Herbert (a journalist I respect) and others are calling it subliminally racist, comparing it to the ‘swift-boating ad’ that led to the recent Senatorial defeat of Harold Ford in Tennessee. (A tarty blonde made the phone symbol and breathily mouthed, “Call me”) Sean and Dick poo-poo their response as overly sensitive; they insist the ad simply compares the vapid celebrity of the two blondes with public adulation of Obama.

(Today Ann Coulter insisted it was insulting, not to Obama but to blondes in general. Oh Ann, you are such a breath of fresh air – like a sunny day in Beijing.)

I call bullshit. The Right and their minions revel in tweaking racist fears in their small minded camp followers, with images that imply sexual subtext between blonde white women and black men – in this case, Obama. I call bullshit because of the totally unrelated footage that appeared throughout this hour-long broadcast. Each time they mentioned Obama, a 15 second clip of him appeared, vigorously mounting the stage, greeting the local political rep with a brief embrace and kiss on the cheek, then proceeding to the mike. The political rep is blonde, female and not unattractive. This footage ran FIVE SEPARATE TIMES. No dialogue, no comment, no follow-up, just Obama in the background, hugging and kissing this blonde, over and over and over.

They know what they’re doing…and so should you. My advice to Obama, from this point on, is to limit himself to a chaste handclasp when greeting any white woman who is not Barbara Bush or older. Not that it’ll make that much difference – they have beaucoup past footage of Obama hugging and kissing star-struck young female political activists who are blonde and eminently do-able.

You know what they say about politics: You can overcome just about anything other than being caught in bed with a dead boy or a live girl. In this case, they don’t need a sex-tape. The good ol’ boys really get their knickers in a twist when they see how downright excited their women get over this charismatic candidate. Obama may aspire to be post racial…but America remains receptive to overt and covert racial propaganda. Rove lives…and Goebbels must be grinning in his grave.

5 August 2008