Where are the leaders that can lead us out of the current cultural and political deadlock that is preventing stronger gun safety laws, allowing rollback of environmental regulations, and the current administration’s denial of global warming that will surely cause even more suffering and geopolitical uncertainty—even wars—if something isn’t done to factor in the increasing frequency of natural calamities.
We know what happened to those most progressive leaders that gave us a vision of a better life in the Sixties. JFK and Bobby Kennedy were killed before they could fulfill their promise of an end to the Cold War, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed before he could complete his call for greater peace between nations and races.
President Johnson pushed through Civil Rights and War on Poverty legislation, yet wouldn’t seek reelection to a second term because of his unpopularity over the Vietnam War.
Who was left that had the vision and leadership ability to continue our march to modernity? Successive presidents and national leaders either had fatal flaws that prevented them from fulfilling their potential, or looked backward to a previous Gilded Age—Presidents Clinton and Reagan come to mind.
President Reagan started the backward-looking counterrevolution that brought us the inequality of the Gilded Age by weakening labor protections, cutting taxes and deregulating whole industries to grow multi-national corporations at the expense of domestic industries and jobs.
What made our greatest leaders? They had to have a vision that united communities, not divided them, is the short answer. We know President Lincoln fought for a United States and abolished slavery.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” in his first Inaugural Address to inspire Americans to withstand the dread of poverty in the Great Depression. One of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous sayings is: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
President Obama made a valiant attempt to unite the races and enlarge the social safety net, but was unable to unite the socio-economic classes that enabled a neo-fascist, blatantly anti-democratic administration and political party to take over the federal government, and many of the states.
What is President Trump’s best known saying? “Make America Great Again”—which has divided Americans because he has made it clear on countless occasions that he meant white, European-born Americans, not Hispanic or African Americans.
He has the mentality of a bully that seeks to divide in order to rule. He cannot lead because he fears his own weakness, and he cannot accept the fact that true power comes from a united people, not a divided people.
His bully mentality has affected whole segments of our society and led to an increase in racial incidents, neo-nazi torch parades, and even the gun rights’ lobby calling for everyone to own a gun.
Our greatest leaders have united Americans, whereas our weakest leaders have divided us. We have a leadership vacuum, in other words. We are a country that needs to believe in stars—whether athletes, movie stars, or even political leaders when they can inspire. It seems as if America and Americans have flourished when there were such leaders, and today there are none.
Harlan Green © 2018
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