A great leader is also a decent role model – well, in public, at least.
Say what you want about the infidelities and power trips of JFK and MLK or the brash narcissism of LBJ and both Roosevelts, when the children of their generations read news stories about those great leaders never once did they have to ask, “Daddy, what does, ‘Blood coming out of her everywhere’ mean?” or “Mommy, is it really okay to imitate crippled people or pay hush money to hookers?” Those leaders of hundreds of millions of men and women understood that their followers not only counted on them to do their jobs well, but also to set an example of how civilized people behave.
Lately I’m learning that not every American agrees.
One of them (he’s a guy I don’t actually know named Kevin) said online, “You be their role model, not another man,” which insinuates that I want my president to be a decent role model in public because I am not one.
But neither is true at all.
Public figures have an obligation to their people to pretend to be perfect in public. Not because they are, but because kids and others who’ve yet to form their character need decent heroes to emulate. That’s the steep price of fame’s admission. Fail to do so in America and kiss your 15-minutes goodbye. Ask any of the famous gropers or rapists who just lost their beloved celebrity because public opinion (finally) ruled publicly against them. As fickle as we are, the American public has been consistent over the years when it comes to blackballing societal pigs.
Except with Donald J. Trump.
Somehow his boorish behavior, unacceptable name-calling and sexist / racist under- (over-?) tones are not only dismissed and forgiven by his base, but lauded as refreshing and ‘honest’ relief from the burdens of political correctness. Suddenly these enablers pop up all over Twitter and FaceBook typing out: who cares about Trump’s personality, he’s getting the job done.
Let’s say he is.
For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that for the first time ever, presidential policies have had an immediate effect on jobs and the economy and let’s give all the credit to Trump instead of anybody else whose prior policies may have started these trends.
You’re okay with how he’s gotten us there?
You’re okay supporting a guy who shoves his way to the front of the crowd? Who makes up petty nicknames for people he dislikes? Who unapologetically says racist and sexist things? Who constantly lies and makes you feel bad when you call him out on it? Who does business by paying those he hires way less than what he promised because he knows they can’t afford to fight him in court?
You’re okay being with that guy?
Because I’m not – not around my kids or by the water cooler and certainly not as the leader of the country I love. But that guy is our president, and that says a whole lot about us. The stock market may be up and unemployment down, but because of that guy our worldwide reputation has taken its biggest dip in history, and that includes the time we used to run slaves and poison ‘injuns’. America can’t properly lead the free world while being led by a guy who wouldn’t even make a dependable babysitter. That guy makes us all look bad, and for the first time in over a half century of living here, I’m embarrassed to be associated with what America has come to represent.
On his TV show a few days ago, Jimmy Kimmel said, “I think this country has become cruel,” but I disagree.
America has already been cruel, but we’re just ashamed to admit it.
It is cruel to own people and to take over someone else’s homeland. It is cruel to fight wars for profit and over another country’s resources. It is cruel to give less quality or access to people based on their sex or skin color or physical limitations. It is cruel to re-write the rules of the economy to benefit the very rich at the expense of everyone else. America is evolving past all of these cruelties, but it has been cruel many times.
Thankfully, most Americans are not.
Until recently, most Americans agreed that how people treat each other is important and that cruel and racist and sexist words are no longer acceptable, at least in public. Then the Donald’s base crept out of their stink-holes last year and started polluting the internet, coffee shops and street corners with their spot-on imitations of his racist and sexist persona.
For the sake of public decency let’s hope that in 2020, public opinion will (finally) rule publicly against this celebrity president; that the majority of Americans will prove to the world that we do blackball societal pigs around here; that if he can’t at least pretend to be decent in front of our children then that guy can kiss his 15-minutes goodbye.
- Mike Lukas
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