Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My TJEd Essay

3. Is there a leadership crisis today?

Many people claim that America suffers from a leadership crisis. The basis for their argument is the seeming inability of Congress and the President to create and pass legislation that effectively deals with the sizable problems our society faces. Immigration. Health care. Social Security. Reliance on foreign oil. Terrorism. Homeland security. Most Americans would agree that our country is in desperate need of solutions to these problems, but they would then claim that Congress wastes time and money by playing “party” politics instead of buckling down and solving these problems in a spirit of bipartisanship.

Certainly these arguments have some validity. Nancy Pelosi’s ill-considered trip to Syria was a superb example of “party politics” with little thought to anything other than discrediting the Republicans in general and the president in particular. Other examples abound; enough to convince most Americans that the main problem lies with our leaders.

I do not believe America has a leadership crisis. America is a country of able problem-solvers who embody all the characteristics of the founding fathers: ingenuity, dedication, vision, and even morals. There are many people capable of running the country and leading it effectively.

What America does not have are good followers. In fact, I suspect many of our problems stem from a “follower crisis.” I see this crisis as having three main parts: 1) special interest groups who care nothing for the general populace of the country and yet are so vocal and so demanding and so illogical that they manage to dominate our politics; and 2) an apathetic general populace who deign to get actively involved in the political process outside of vitriolic and ill-informed criticism; and 3) the media which refuses to disseminate information in a meaningful way, and instead produce “news” so biased in nature that it is impossible for the general public to understand the issues facing the country—even if they were so inclined.

Special interest groups’ influence has far exceeded their usefulness. I understand their historical importance. I am grateful to suffragettes and civil right’s workers. I am glad that conservation has become mainstream so that educated and informed decisions can be made concerning America’s incredible natural resources. Certainly, I am glad that sexual harassment in the workplace has declined and that citizens with AIDS are not getting fired because of their disease. These things are all good. Unfortunately, in America, we have forgotten that special interest groups are called “special interest groups” because they do not reflect the majority. Just because a small body of people feels a certain way does not mean that politicians should jump to attention and legislate in their favor. The reason they do so now is because special interest groups are increasingly vocal—shrill, actually. They make so much noise, claim so much media attention, and behave in such nonsensical ways (and they fork up big bucks) that politicians cannot see their way around them to find more moderate voices.

And the moderate voices are usually not even there! When the ridiculous law passed phasing out normal light bulbs and replacing them with mercury filled light bulbs that are poisonous when they break—how many moderate, average Americans knew that the law was even being considered? And if they did, how many of them wrote to their congressman? Exactly. So the wackos who care more about tree frogs than your children won again. I meant wackos in the most politically correct way possible. In a few years from now, when we are frantically evacuating our house because a light bulb broke—we can think fondly of the eco-Nazi’s who helped guide our country to new heights of stupidity. My point—moderate Americans (the vast majority of us) need to be more involved so that the strident voices of special interest groups are tempered by more mainstream ideas.

The media could help with this process, but instead they have aligned themselves with the most liberal voices they can find. Bush is Satan. Obviously—how could I fail to learn that lesson with the media’s accurate and unbiased news presentation? Oliver DeMille pointed out that one presidential debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglass lasted 16 hours. Douglass spoke first, covering in detail his beliefs and plans for his presidency if elected. Then Lincoln expressed his appreciation for Douglass’s remarks, requested that everyone go home and get food, and then reconvene because his remarks would take at least as long as Douglass’s.

What could a common citizen like myself do with an eight-hour, detailed presentation of a candidate’s belief system and plans for his upcoming presidency? A whole lot! I might actually get a sense of who is most closely aligned with my own ideas and vote accordingly. Instead, we rely on short sound bites and two-hour debates where each speaker is limited to two-minute responses. Why two minutes? Why can’t a speaker explain himself fully? Nothing of importance can be explained in two minutes. Our current election is a perfect example. Two minutes was just enough time for Thompson to gather his thoughts. Before he had a chance to speak his turn was over. Two minutes was just long enough for Ron Paul to get laughed at and just long enough for McCain and Romney to get annoyed with each other for purposely misconstruing each other’s comments. Not enough time for the listeners to understand any of the candidates’ stances on important issues. Not enough time for any of the speakers to demonstrate eloquence or intelligence.

And yet our media prefers to have the general populace in ignorance. They like to pick stories to sensationalize and then mislead Americans by their coverage. The “Let’s Blame Bush for New Orleans” was a prime example.

As a result of the media’s and special interest groups’ hammering of our elected leaders and the majority’s apathy and sheep-like belief in the veracity of the media, our politicians are not unable to lead—they are terrified of leading. Any legislation is ripped to shreds before it has even been written. Americans display hostility and anger if a piece of legislation does not immediately solve a problem perfectly, and they want a guarantee of success before any new legislation is tried. The recent failure of the proposed immigration law is a perfect example. Our Congress is quite literally damned if they don’t and damned if they do. Imagine if FDR had worked under those conditions!

At some point, we have to let the leaders lead. Ask their think tanks, study out possibilities, and then create solutions without the onerous burden of infallibility. Unprecedented situations usually require gradual solutions. One step in the right direction, a few steps back, new insights gained, better legislation enacted, results analyzed. Time and space for leaders to breathe. Our current elected officials do not have that time or space.

Our media, not content with hamstringing our leadership, then proclaim to the world the unfitness, incompetence, and downright stupidity of our president and his advisors. Slander is acceptable under the banner of freedom of the press. The media certainly does not feel it necessary to maintain the dignity of the presidential office and appears entirely unconcerned that it weakens the administration’s position across the globe.

Is that the way to teach our children respect for authority and this country? Even if Hillary (God help us) is elected—she should be treated with utmost respect by the media. Although some might find me overly nostalgic, I think fondly of the media of the 1930s and 1940s which chose to be so respectful of their president that almost nobody realized FDR was confined (for the most part) to a wheelchair (although there is nothing wrong with being in a wheelchair—it is the respect shown our president that I am getting at).

Now—can teaching character education in the school bring back that kind of true patriotism (not the kind of patriotism that leads to Muslims getting harassed in our schools and neighborhoods)? No. Only parents can teach morals and values and patriotism and how to be a good follower. So do all people need to homeschool? Yes. Of course. Parents always have “homeschooled” in that they have passed on their fundamental values to their children. That should certainly continue. Do I think everyone needs to keep his or her children out of public schools in order to do that? Of course not. However, if we do not create many excellent followers soon, our leadership will soon be completely defunct.

No comments: