Ideals Require Courage

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. Anne Frank

Republican presidential candidates should heed Anne Frank.

The terrorist attacks in Paris triggered a reality show that featured Republican presidential candidates in the midst of a group panic attack.

“This is a clash of civilizations,” incorrectly asserted the too-slick Rubio.

“Only let Christians in,” bawled the passive Bush and scary Cruz.

“Close America’s door to orphaned toddlers from Syria,” roared the bully Christie.

“Close the Mosques,” bellowed the hollow-man Trump who thinks requiring Muslims to wear an identification card is a good idea.

Giving neurosurgeons a bad name, Ben Carson compared Muslims to “mad dogs.”

“No refugees can come to our states,” proclaimed unlawful and “the sky is falling” Republican governors (and one democrat). They whined in mass when President Obama called them “un-American.”

And President Obama’s opinion: “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends…our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”

I’m with the president.

For those of us fearful of a terrorist from Syria coming into the United States as a refugee, I quote from the Economist:

“Refugees apply for resettlement at American embassies or through the United Nations. If they pass that first hurdle, they are screened by outposts of the Department of State all over the world. They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and International intelligence agencies. The process may take as long as three years, sometimes longer. No other person entering America is subjected to such a level of scrutiny.”

I don’t like demagogues for leaders or politicians who fear-monger and demonize others to justify going against our values. Heed Voltaire’s observation: “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

I don’t like leaders who try to make political points by refusing the helpless and powerless—most of them women and children.

I like my president and congressional leaders to be calm, deliberate, and thoughtful. I also like my leaders to be courageous, compassionate and clear thinking. Leaders stay true to long-held American values in the toughest of times and this is not one of America’s toughest times. Real leaders protect the powerless and helpless and women and children.

The attacks in Paris gave us a window into ourselves and those who aspire to lead America into the future.

Do we want a president with an apocalyptic world view who loses his nerve in a crisis and shoots before he aims? Do we want to lose our humanity?

Republican presidential candidates failed the real-time test of presidential leadership: Their eagerness to run from American values to get votes disqualifies them as serious presidential candidates.

Terrorist attacks scare us. That’s understandable. But let’s not get hysterical and let fear bring out the worst in us and allow the terrorists to win. We defeat the terrorists with courage and adherence to America’s history and core values. What will be become of us as a nation if at the first moment of fear we throw out our values and fall-apart?

A friend wrote: “If we set policy based in fear we fail. If we set policy based on our values, we redeem ourselves. Nothing less than our identity as a nation is a stake.”

“The vote by the House of Representatives effectively to slam the door on Syrian refugees was the crassest kind of political grandstanding, scapegoating some of the world’s most vulnerable people to score political points.” Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, Nov. 22, 2015

Enemies or the Opposition?

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
Winston Churchill

Hillary Clinton jokingly referred to Republicans as enemies while Joe Biden said Republicans were not enemies but the opposition in Congress.

I believe that the leading Republican presidential candidates, who appeal to America’s darkest fears, would lead the nation into accelerated decline and would revive the vilest aspects of America’s history and shadow side. And indifferent Democrats may let that happen.

Author and psychologist Rollo May defined a pseudoinnocent as a naive person who has blinders on and who does not see real dangers. Pseudoinnocents cling to childhood assumptions about the nature of the world. They do not want to acknowledge power or aggression much less use their innate power and aggression. How many indifferent Americans are pseudoinnocent and cannot see the dangers that threaten their way of life or the life they aspire to?

Author of The Denial of Death, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote: “If everyone lives the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They establish their own sanity and call themselves normal.” I often think of Fox News, conservative talk radio and the extremists of the Republican Party when I read this quote.

The most extreme of the Republicans live in their own illusionary and shadow-filled Plato’s Cave and convince themselves of the normality of their regressive visions and black/white and either/or world. The cave-dwellers collude together to fleece the naive people who follow them. And many pseudoinnocent Republican voters seem happy to get hustled over and over again by the same false promises.

Many pseudoinnocent Democrats believe if they could get those who yearn for a return to the past to understand their vision for the future, those people would change. This was, I believe, a problem of President Obama’s: He didn’t seem to understand how serious and base his enemies in Congress and in the Republican Party were. I don’t mean people who disagreed with him on philosophy or policy. I mean those who wanted to harm him personally. He lacked the ruthless streak a leader needs to deal with those who hated him and wanted to destroy his presidency.

Early in Obama’s presidency, I wrote to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “What are you people doing? You make nice with people who want to kill you!” How did that approach work out for America with immigration, climate change and income inequality and so many other issues?

Republican and Democratic voters need to awaken and see reality as it is. Villains and injustice exist. They do not respond to argument and common sense; they respond only to power. We live surrounded by them in, perhaps, more insidious ways than ever before. Naïve and indifferent people, who make up a significant percentage of the adult population in America, allow the scoundrels to have their way.

We need to make wise moral judgments. It is wrong and irresponsible not to. We need to judge our politicians and hold them accountable with our votes.

Serious about her enemies or not, Hillary Clinton has battled the dark side of the Republican Party for decades with strength and resolve. She has gained wisdom and insight.

Americans need a battle-scarred warrior to lead them in today’s dark world.