Tuesday, August 2, 2016
THINKING SERIOUSLY ABOUT LEADERSHIP
I have been here before; WE HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE too many times. As an American, as a Jew, as a human being, as a woman, as a participating member of a democracy, I just shake my head and wonder how we got to this point with these choices for our next Leader of the Free World and the United States of America. I know that many others share my concern.
That being said, I am particularly horrified that so little respect for us as Americans and as human beings is being shown consistently by one of the candidates who seeks this office. What does this say about our country that we are in this situation, where a candidate for this office consistently maligns, offends, and makes fun of so many in our lives? For any of us who are immigrants or the children of those who came here for a better and more accepting life, who have loved ones who are women, LGBTQ, mentally challenged or different, in any way disabled, veterans who have suffered, who have people in our lives who are Muslims or members of any other faith, have non-American born family members, and are not rich and entitled, I do not understand how any of us can cast a vote for this individual. For anyone who does not believe that one can learn foreign policy from “watching the shows” or that “I am rich, really rich” qualifies one to take on such a daunting responsibility as that which is at stake, how can anyone vote for this individual? For anyone who understands that our world is complex and complicated and the threats that face us are beyond comprehensible, how can we “trust” one who sees things as problems he can solve just because he is! For anyone who is honest and law-abiding, both in terms of the letter and the spirit of our laws, how can we vote for one who abuses financial practices for his own benefit or who does not honor contracts he signed, and is not trusted by his own peers in business? ( I know, they are #@$### according to him as well!)
This situation is made even more difficult by the fact that we have a second candidate with low likeability ratings. Interestingly enough, according to Gallup Polls, likeability ratings for our Presidents have only been between 45% and 65% since they were calculated beginning with Harry Truman, with the sole exception of John F. Kennedy, who gleaned 70%. Obviously, given the tragic circumstances of his truncated presidency, more than a few experts have posited that had he finished out his term, this rating would not have been that high. Hillary Clinton is presently at the lower end of this range.
I often say that we all have to remember that 100% of the people will NOT be 100% happy 100% of the time. Further, each and every President or person in that type of office has stated that one cannot understand what is at stake until one is there; and I subscribe to the Jewish teaching of “do not judge your fellow until you have reached his (or her) place.” I totally agree that we have concerns across the board. Our world is indeed complicated and difficult and I often wonder how different Presidents in our past would have fared under the present circumstances. I loved the energy around Bernie Sanders’ presidency bid and the idealism he brought back to so many of us, whether we agreed or disagreed with him. It very much reminded me from the beginning of George McGovern in the 1972 campaign which I remember well. Interestingly enough, many commentators have made exactly that observation more recently. That being said, we need someone who has personal experience…. not from shows, not from opinion pieces, and not informed above all from hubris and the sense that “I can fix all of the problems.”
I am personally scared… that so many people in this country are responding to scare tactics, and forgetting basic reason and potentially putting all of us at great risk. A dear friend of ours (Thank you MS) asked me for Torah sources to respond to people who think that the candidate who plays on fear and conveys that candidate is the only one who can fix everything, taking a page, by the way, from the playbook of too many dictators that have caused our world to be in the precarious situation it presently finds itself in. I responded that there are so many, but I will choose one here – from a Parsha we will be reading the second Shabbat in September, Parshat Shoftim.
We read in Devarim/Deuteronomy 17: 18 – 19 the various standards for a ruler, amongst which is the necessity to keep the Law (Torah) by their side at all times to remind them that they are accountable and are not just ruling due to their own right. They are not to be excessively rich, because they will forget the injunction with which this weekly portion begins, namely “Justice, Justice you shall pursue.” While these words are directed to the People of Israel as they are readying to occupy their promised land and begin a new chapter in their lives, the sense that we are subject to the law and must abide by that law and KNOW that law is critical to any constructive leadership. THAT LAW talks about caring for those that are disadvantaged, and in fact, the entire well being of the Israelite nation is severely compromised when this is forgotten, as we see throughout the books and the diatribes of the Prophets. Judging fairly, paying one’s workers on time for work done, not speaking ill of others and other dictates are all clearly stated as part of this Law and its expectations.
Good and critically needed advice as we think about the future of the United States of America and its role in the world. We need the Bernies with their idealism and moral compass. We are part of a democracy where ALL voices are to be heard and considered with respect, not responded to by shouting down and kindergarten schoolyard level of name-calling and making distasteful faces. We need reason and dignity and respect for all, for if our leader is incapable of showing this for our own citizenry, what does that say about our position in the world? How are we better than any number of other countries with dictators and autocratic leaders who do as they please and would agree that they could go and shoot someone in the middle of the street and maintain their rule? Later, in Samuel I, chapter 8, the people of Israel do indeed ask for a King “so they can be like all of the other nations.” At this point, they are warned carefully about the excesses of one in such a position, who DOES NOT carry the law with him and know it well as well as understand his accountability to it. Indeed, this will come back to haunt the Israelites on their journey.
This is what we need to think carefully about at this hour. How do our values and lessons from our past inform what we are about to do? So many hard fought battles for women’s rights, respect for each others’ faiths and background, rights for those amongst us who are less able-bodies, LGBTQ inclusion, and so much more….. WE MUST PROTECT ALL OF THIS and understand the potential risks that face us with the wrong decision at this critical juncture.
As for Hillary Clinton, I would humbly suggest that she considers the urgency needed to truly respond to all points of view and not always lead with “That is not what I heard….” We need her to be more liked and more respected for integrity, for honesty, for collaboration, for an able mind and proper words and so much more. If anyone who is reading this has her ear, PLEASE convey to her the tenuous nature of the hour. I know… 100% of the people will never be 100% satisfied 100% of the time. That being said, we have to acknowledge that in this day of changed rules and instant messages and even more quick opinions, we must consider that it is not just a matter of what we do, but how we are perceived, and I would challenge all those working with her to think about how far a paradigm of steady hand and respectful reason (oh ues, and grace and grit) will go and are needed at this hour.