This nation of ours is in trouble. Divisions run rampant, and economic strain pushes far too many of us to the brink of disaster. What we need in this moment is real leadership — someone who will stand up and be honest, inspire unity of purpose across all the fractured battle lines and levels of power.
But the reality is that we get the leaders we demand in this country.
And, for the last few years, we haven’t been standing up and demanding much beyond "keep me safe" and "I’d like some for me," which, unfortunately, has been far too much of the norm for far too many in America.
We need to stop and think.
By reaching out to help raise someone else out of the darkness, we enlighten ourselves as well. By reaching out to help educate a fellow American about the disparities and needs of the less fortunate, and planting that seed of empathy and understanding, we all benefit from more connections. By realizing that no matter our more petty differences or our arguments over political differences that have been amplified through years and years of fostered fractures to benefit a few — that most of us stand in the same shoes of wanting better for our families, working hard to make progress and being desperate for hope for the future that things will be better if we all work toward a greater good together.
Our children deserve better than they are getting.
The NYTimes has an interesting piece on Barack Obama’s years at UChicago Law that is well worth a read. It brings up so many of the questions we’ve all had off and on about Sen. Obama’s lack of real gut-level fight on issues we find important. But it also points to so much of what could be — and may be — priorities for his presidency should he win — and how willing he might be to consider competing views on policy to come to the best solution as opposed to a knee-jerk ideological fiat like we’ve been living with the last few years.
Frankly, these days, a little common sense would go a long way in my book, given how asinine and damaging the Bush Administration’s anti-government actions have been. Read Thomas Frank’s "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule," and you’ll see what I mean.
Something that I found fascinating in the article was Obama’s appreciation for the oratory of Frederick Douglass, whose fiery speeches often put him at odds even with the abolitionists with whom he was working. The contrast between Obama’s cautious, carefully crafted actions and speeches through the years and Douglass’ habit of pushing at the edges of acceptable discourse to the point of extreme discomfort for his audience to make a blunt point for which he was willing to work tirelessly no matter the public opinion is striking. But it is also instructive that, perhaps, Obama has an instinctive understanding of the difficulties of running for national office as a black man in America with all of its residual issues no matter our outward mouthing of progress.
But at the same time he appreciates the value of pushing for extraordinary dreams in the face of very long odds with the rhetoric that calls to the soul and pushes for the action to match it.
This is not an age for caution. There is far too much work desperately needed on far too many fronts that have been deliberately neglected, shoved down, and utterly dismantled by the Republican anti-government success brigades. What we need is leadership that pushes all of this work forward.
But we cannot wait for that leadership to come from anyone else. If we do, we’ll be waiting an awfully long time, because most folks would rather sit back and keep their head down and hope that someone else will do the work for them. Let’s not be those people. We must be the leaders we wish to see, to work for the change we know we need…to push for the reform that must come. The American dream is not simply that you accumulate things through increased wealth, and we need a big reminder of that. The America I love gives all of us a chance to work toward the best for us all — because it is we, the people, for whom the government ought to be working.
And it is well past time for us to remind all of those in government of that fact. Let’s spend some time this morning talking about how we want to do that…