Within one week, the greatness of America has included pipe bombs mailed from Florida, talk of blackface, the mass execution of people going to pray, and racist robocalls to influence our state elections. What is it in ourselves that we sense the need to separate to experience wholeness, or is it this: when we don’t have clear public leadership in power, our worst private instincts get released?
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are often studied as the pillars of American leadership, with more books written on these two than any other President. Both were given the trust to keep things together under trying times. We will not always have strong leadership available, and we are fortunate that we live in a democratic system of checks and balances. The founding fathers saw the rise of despots and zealots that might take advantage of executive power, and they saw that the wisdom of the masses could be usurped with enough doctrine and intimidation.
I wonder if we would recognize a Lincoln or a Washington in today’s America? It may be an issue of scale, or the inability to differentiate the big things, the important decisions, from the small ones. For our state governor’s race, some of us might not equate the shortsightedness in accepting free tickets at the same level of making profit off the sick and while in public office. Others may look at one issue, a woman’s choice for example, and use that as a standard for support, regardless of the threat to our pillars of democracy by the rest of the big decisions. If we are unable to practice some scale, some degree of distinguishing one bad thing vs. a lot of bad choices, then democracy will falter.
In the days of old, anyone could have a good idea, yet if the King said otherwise, it didn’t matter. Unless we want to be ruled by such simple logic, we must do a better job of seeing the bigger picture of things. We do not suffer from mass incarceration, high economic inequality, and corporate greed because of our sins or an unseen hand of a god. We allow these things by the people we elect to make decisions on our behalf. Someone decided it was American to incarcerate more people, ration more healthcare, and allow sky is the limit profit without paying a fair share of taxes. The media has not helped, but it is up to us to distinguish the important facts from the entertainment and fiction.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde warned us on being two-faced, of holding ourselves to a different appearance in public, yet doing evil in private. The anger or frustration we vent may be misplaced if we haven’t looked at our own role first, especially when it comes to who we support and put in office. Tallahassee experienced several years of job loss under a Let’s Get to Work slogan, our prospects improving only when the national economic picture improved. Until we can develop our abilities to scale our beliefs, consider this criteria: who has the most interest in the common good, who shows a willingness to get out of a comfort zone or change a view when faced with the facts, and who can get us to jobs with benefits, universal healthcare, and real environmental protection? Mr. DeSantis could have made movement on any of these things and didn’t. His service to country is to be appreciated, though service to country is no guarantee of wisdom or success in elected office.
There may be no knight in shining armor in our governor’s race, though the choice between these two is clear. When it comes to scale, we ought to put a stop to the last two years of disorder and put our trust in one of our own.
Daniel Parker is an author, educator, and public servant. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org