Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Here's the Thing

Mikaela says:
As Americans, we don't like to be smart or for other people to be smart. We don't even think it's important!

Apparently, certain politicians don't want us to be eloquent, either. They want us to focus on how they can "solve problems."

Yet seeing how our country is seemingly inexorably deadlocked on certain reportedly black and white issues -- abortion, taxes, the proper role of government, gay marriage, the proper role of our military around the world, etc. -- there is no clear majority for any side of these controversies, so how are we to "solve" these non-solvable problems?

Guess what? It all comes down to persuasion. With reason, yes. With factual feasibility, yes. With common sense and empathy, absolutely. Creativity & listening go a long way, too.

But what is a politician to do? There are minefields all around. We parse every word, every vote, every choice, every relationship. To some extent, that is what democracy looks like.

And yet.

There are those who say that the best presidents are those who were able to articulate a vision that inspired us, embody leadership in a way that unified us. Americans don't want to think, I'm sorry to say. They want to pick a leader they can trust and follow. Dangerous, yes. But has it ever been different? We're animals. Following the leader on some level is an unavoidable instinct. Sometimes it's our best chance to avoid danger and make our way to safety -- all of us, not just the ones the packleader likes or agrees with or has no history of conflict with.

I keep asking, who will lead? Beyond the issues, beyond the individual dangers, beyond individual egoes and agendas and vendettas that span the globe?

Hillary can't see the forest for the policy trees. Obama speaks to the forest and asks those trees to march on Dunsinane (Macbeth, anyone?). McCain has a list of enemies a mile long that he can't wait to pay back.

Leadership, people. Leadership. I agree that the ability to solve problems is a good quality, as is management. Very important to the job of President. But if we're going to move forward as a country, we've got to pick a person who will rally us to follow.

I'm suddenly nervous about urging us to go for charisma. Reportedly Hitler was quite the speaker, quite the leader, inspiring his country on unprecedented levels. I think we're well-situated to uncover quickly the dangerous ideas couched in fancy rhetoric, despite the source. If there's anything we're good at as a country -- in all our political camps -- it's sniffing out a rat.

Then again, look who's president.

Still, as a good pragmatist, I believe strongly there are no right or wrong ideas, there are just good and bad consequences of ideas. Where will Hillary's rhetoric lead us? Where McCain's? And Obama's?

Who do you believe can best lead us to a place of unified action to make our economy, our global relations, our social consensus stronger?

Presidents are part of just one branch of government and the symbolic heads of our country. Just. They cannot solve our problems. They can only inspire us to solve them ourselves.