Blue Wave a Comin’

  • Posted: November 2, 2018
  • Category: Blog
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If there existed a tachometer to measure the intensity of the nation’s attention devoted to scurrilous political news it would be well past the red line. The journalistic community is running breathlessly down the junior high halls of Washington’s elite, going from locker to locker for the latest juicy gossip. My sympathy for junior high teachers continues to increase. We can only escape the doings of the octogenarian teenagers by retreating into a bubble of self-imposed isolation, meaning no more cat videos on YouTube.

Our mail is full of 8 ½ x 11 cardstock sent at great expense to warn us or educate us as to the character of those running for office. Without exception they are either full color screams of rage at serial abusers and puppets of special interests or saccharine testimonies to sainthood. It seems that the only people running for political office are either members of the Klan or plaster saints – of the secular faith to be sure. Openly admitting to a Christian faith of any substance, at least in a Colorado election, would be like popping a loud gust of methyl mercaptan laden intestinal gas in a crowded elevator.

Particularly troubling is the kindergarten nature of these attempts to persuade. The ads on TV, the cardstock in our mailbox are written with logic that 4th graders, let alone 7th graders, would find laughable. One wonders at the marketing infrastructure, the minds behind these efforts. Is all this political bombast just a cynical ploy by third rate marketing firms to get a piece of all that readily available campaign cash? Or is it possible that our leaders, those in office, those aspiring, those advising think they really work?

We need to coin a new word, something like pornography, to describe what passes for political speech in our present time. Perhaps political speech has always been so. People are who we are. But one has the sense that in times past, there were a few individuals of stature who were persons of integrity and honesty as well. It has been a long time since that has been true. There is always the chance that history will see the past generation or two of political leaders differently than we do. But if I had to bet, I imagine that the future will simply snicker politely when they consider the era of Baby Boomer leadership.

To be honest, I hope they do snicker because that means our culture has a future. Our continued existence, as individuals or as a culture, is not assured or even probable. Dispassionate observers have always harbored doubts about the long term viability of both democracies and republics. Even the Enlightenment, the genesis of our present favored status in the world, was no more likely than my winning Powerball. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

My interest in political history is that of the dilettante, not the professional. Thus I am not subject to the professionals’ publish or perish paradigm with its resulting enforcement of ideological purity. As such, my opinions are to be taken no more seriously than the thoughts of my clients on the best way to run a project back in the day (insert smiley face here). But it is clear, at least in my mind, that political history demonstrates the absolute need for leadership in any culture. Nature abhors a vacuum, both physically and culturally.

Cultures can continue to operate on autopilot for periods of time. America herself is proof of this over the past decades since the Cold War. But reality is a B****, always intruding at the least opportune time. The nature of leadership is to make us, the unwashed masses, respond in ways necessary to accommodate a new reality. Good leadership almost always requires us to do things we don’t want to do.

Anyone aspiring to leadership needs role models. Leadership is a lot like fatherhood, the instinct is inborn, but its practice is learned from watching others perform. I have always been drawn to history for models in thinking about leadership. I have often looked to Jesus for teaching on leadership and he does not disappoint. He has much to say about leaders – and about their followers. There is no more powerful model of great leadership than the example of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

Jesus often uses the metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep in talking about us – human beings. I grew up in a rural area and find that idea both distasteful and humiliating. While I am comfortable with and find many attractive qualities in cattle and horses, in my admittedly prejudiced mind, there is virtually nothing attractive about sheep.

Notwithstanding their smell and awkward bodies, sheep are finalists in the contest for animals least likely to survive. Sheep are placid in the presence of predators except when they panic, and in their defense, they do panic easily. Horses – no model of stability or good sense themselves – look to sheep for tips on how and when to panic. When sheep panic they run blindly, piling up into heaps against a fence or stampeding over a cliff. At the same time a stealthy predator easily takes a single sheep from a grazing flock without the flock even taking notice. A genius among the sheep aspires to the common sense of a brain-damaged cow.

But as the one who created us, Jesus understands people very well. We might not like it but Jesus is right on the money when he compares us to sheep. Left to ourselves, we wander into danger, focused on that particularly attractive mortgage rate dangling in the ad. We may be slightly more sensible when alone, but in groups, our sheep nature is blatantly obvious. Human mobs, whether in the streets or on Twitter, can give herds of panicked sheep pointers on irrational behavior.

Which is why leadership is important in human society. Sheep without a shepherd wind up at the bottom of a cliff or in a wolves stomach. So too, human societies without leadership wind up in equally fatal circumstances.

At some level, we all understand our sheepish nature, which is why we have Washington D.C. – and our state capitals. But leadership is more than politics. It’s the people giving us our view of the world, newscasters and news editors, our business leadership, our teachers, the wise men and women that we listen to on CPR. It’s the movers and shakers in the governmental agencies that direct and control most of our daily life. Even the diverse galaxy of celebrity counts as leadership, because celebrities are everywhere and we listen to them, even though they are mostly empty megaphones, a Mortimer Snerd on the knee of some invisible ventriloquist.

But lost somewhere in the Sturm Und Drang of America’s politics, our leaders seem to have forgotten the heavy load of responsibility that leadership brings. To continue the metaphor, we are the sheep and they are the shepherds. We are short sighted, easily given to emotional excess, prone to panic but absorbed in our Candy Crush game when danger appears. We must have shepherds who protect and guide the flock. A good shepherd must understand the job is not about the shepherd; it is about the sheep.

Whatever your particular biases cause you to think, you have to give America’s leadership good grades over the past two and a half centuries. So far, at least by the standards of this biased observer, America is a success story by almost any standard you care to use. How else can you judge leadership?

But lately, it appears that the sheep are getting disgruntled. It happens sometimes. Even Jesus told stories about sheep that wander off and get lost. Sheep forget who they are. They are sheep after all – not wolves or a more formidable herbivore like a moose. And there is always the headstrong lamb mistaking himself for the shepherd and heading off into the wild.

But now America has a President that America’s leadership hates. HATES!! Hate is a strong word, but I believe it the right word in this case. America’s leadership is as united as I have ever seen them. They are united in their hatred of Donald Trump. Granted, Mr. Trump is an easy target if you have a mind to hate. But this level of hatred and this level of unanimity among America’s leadership united in that hatred? This is something new in my experience.

I was a politically aware young adult at risk of being drafted back in the days of Richard Nixon. When my own adolescent political views were maturing, I was faced with possibility of facing real bullets in impenetrable jungles rather than today’s feared prospect of microagression’s slings and arrows along the ordained ladder of success in the office environments of comfortable urban enclaves. So I have seen a President reviled, a President facing a historic level of hatred during a time when I had skin in the game. I am no novice among the bramble bushes created when America’s leadership class scorns a President.

Yet despite the virtually unanimous hatred, disgust and sheer contempt shown by our leaders for this man, he was elected President. Then these same people prophesied with a unanimous voice the expectation of abject failure in office. Instead this man has presided over a booming economy with a low in unemployment not seen in generations. He has appointed men and women with sterling resumes to the courts. He has renegotiated trade deals with our partners that seem, on the face of initial reports, to be favorable to America.

And yet despite what any normal times would acknowledge as the beginnings of a very successful presidency, our leadership class has continued it’s near unanimous hatred, disgust and sheer contempt toward the President and his minions. Not satisfied with showing their opposition in words, substantive and serious members of America’s leadership class have advocated and engaged in civil disobedience up to and including felonious assault.

The midterm elections, usually a time of public apathy and professional payback, are this year at the intensity level of a presidential election. The Republicans are in a majority in both the Senate and the House, while holding a substantial majority of state houses. This year would normally be a time of substantial Democratic upsurge, a reversion to the mean if you will.

And indeed, the leadership class whether Democrat or Republican has been forecasting with barely disguised glee, a “Blue Wave” a comin’, a repudiation of historic proportions for President Trump. But as the Election Day approaches, forecasters with boots on the ground are increasingly unsure about the prospects of this “Blue Wave”. Election forecasters are much more hesitant to forecast in 2018 given the debacle of 2016, but what they see is worrisome to the consensus wisdom.

Whether the Midterms restore America’s leadership’s confidence in itself or presents another occasion for gnashing of teeth, tearing of clothes and wearing ashes is up for grabs. Either way it will not be a return to normal. There is just too much evidence that a very large piece of the flock is looking for new shepherds.

One is tempted to divide the electorate into the Adorables and the Deplorables. No less than the Grande Dame of the Adorable universe has done so. But that ground has now been plowed with sufficient intensity such that a slight breeze raises clouds of dust obscuring the landscape. But it does have the advantage of recognition and a certain karmic justice.

There is no real controversy to be found in recognizing that the Democratic Party is the preferred pasture of the Adorables. It is also a truism that the leadership of the Republican Party consists of Adorables as well. Perhaps we might speak of them as goats hidden among the Adorable sheep. Adorables both Red and Blue simply share a common worldview and common background – a secular theology if you will.

How did this come about you say? Perhaps there is no better common denominator among the Adorables, separating them from the Deplorables, than education – higher education. Of course higher education is a term so broad and disingenuous as to hide more than it illuminates. But it is a useful place to start.

The higher education that defines the Adorable mind is not found in the disciplines pointed toward preparing students with marketable skills. It is seldom found at Rawlins Community College or picked up at a trade school. It is unusual in the hard engineering sciences or finance. The foundations of the Adorable mind are built exactly where you would expect them to be, in the courses of study where we train the next generation of leaders.

The Adorable mind is shaped in Political Science, the Humanities, Journalism, Law, Teachers College. The more prestigious the Academy, the more profoundly the Adorable mind is shaped. In these places, an impressively uniform doctrine has hardened into an orthodoxy enforced with the thoroughness of the Spanish Inquisition.

It is perhaps an ironic side effect of our meritocracy. Even as the criteria for admission into the training for America’s leadership class is scrutinized and adjusted to achieve more diversity, or more bluntly spoken – dividing the spoils among the tribes, the training itself of this diverse group becomes ever more homogenous. Though the ethnicities of the privileged grow more varied, those future members of the privileged class become simply differently colored cars coming down an assembly line stringent in its attention to quality control.

This is all to the good. Just as an army needs a leadership class, trained officers, a culture needs a leadership class – trained leaders. In a multi-ethnic country interacting from a position of power and influence with the entire world, a diverse leadership class confers legitimacy and offers fair dealing. Donald Trump presents no threat to this system. He has said nothing to gainsay either the legitimacy or the composition of this leadership class. In fact, he are one! Where does this virulent and all encompassing rage come from?

A mob is driven by out of control emotional anger, by hatred. Anyone who doesn’t think our leadership class is a mob, given voice by the media, simply isn’t watching. America has a leadership class and it is very – very – angry. It is going to do anything, commit any action, to rid itself of this pathogen in the body politic. To paraphrase someone from back in the dimly remembered sixties, “Extremism in the defense of privilege is no vice!”

But again, where does this virulent and all encompassing rage come from? To hazard a guess, I think it goes back to higher education. Having an education from the institutions and courses of study that puts you into the leadership class fills you with a certain pride. You are one of the favored ones. Rather than a wearing green beret or pinning naval aviator’s wings on your chest, you engage in an elaborate system of virtue signaling that boosts your pride along with defining your elite status.

America’s leadership class has had a high opinion of itself for a long time. To be sure, they have good reason for this pride. America’s leadership has championed the noble idea expressed in our Declaration of Independence –

We believe that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”,

That is a noble calling, though over the past century the ruling philosophy they actually learn in higher education has morphed into something that might more accurately be expressed as “Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite” or “Workers of the World – Unite”. I must admit to a certain amusement for the high regard Academia continues to hold for French and Soviet thought.

The media, the universal media given the same worldview by their own higher education, has created an echo chamber endlessly reflecting their nobility back in an endless drumbeat of incestuous praise. Even as they selflessly espouse their noble principles, the leadership class has done very well for themselves in economic terms, but then it is only right that the shepherd be rewarded, occasionally selecting a lamb from the flock for his own dinner.

Our leadership class is proud of themselves. They see poverty and injustice around the world and move the levers of American power to make this world a better place. They see the outsize share of the world’s resources used by America as well as its inexplicable prosperity and they express contrition. Where there is oppression, they bring justice. Where there is poverty, they bring aid. They are noble people fighting a noble cause, defenders of victims in every place and time.

And then Donald Trump arrives on the scene and makes fun of them. When the hall monitors react with an angry “shush”, Donald Trump does not retreat in shame apologizing profusely as has everyone before him. He laughs at them, continuing to speak the unspeakable. This is outrageous!!

And then justice is denied. Donald Trump is elected President. It turns out that in the great crusade to make the world safe for snowflakes, a lot of people in America got the shaft. To the great shock of America’s shepherds, a large part of the flock was no longer willing to be cooked up to provide the food at the shepherd’s charity dinner for the homeless.

The Adorables world was rocked. After the election Donald Trump continued to taunt them, to stick needles into their pride even as all of their predictions of disaster turned out to be balloons filled with empty false bravado. Jauntily reversing the Obama Administration’s economic nostrums, Donald Trump took credit for prosperity returning to America. And Donald Trump just continues to speak the unspeakable.

Nothing makes us quite as angry as when people laugh at us. If we are human beings, we are enraged. Our face turns red and reason flies out of the window. Witness the Kavanaugh Hearings. Most everything Donald Trump has done was an Adorable idea – before Donald Trump came on the scene. But he did it rather than talked about it and then took credit for it. Then he just laughed at them and poked fingers into eyes blinded by pretensions to virtue and nobility.

Even worse. The Adorables can see the smiles on all those Deplorables out there as The Donald does his act. All those construction workers, those car mechanics, those factory people are smiling. All those gun owners, those oil field workers and coal miners, those people that attend Bible Studies and go to church. They were supposed to slink off into the darkness somewhere, kind of like Neanderthals or slave owners or something. The Adorables don’t even like their sheep.

Totally and utterly unforgiveable. To the barricades!!!

I can stand on the sidelines, free of the crushing burden of leadership responsibility. From here it is easy, even pleasurable to stick pins into the pretentions of our shepherds. I am simply a smart aleck sheep, jeering from the back bench. But I am also a Deplorable who rubs shoulders in different places and times with the Adorables and I know very well they don’t like us.

It’s not us they don’t like, it’s our outmoded ideas. They have a brave new world to build and we keep getting in the way. But we need each other, even if we don’t like each other. Remember what happens to sheep without shepherds. Our shepherds have failed us, but we do need shepherds.

 

4 Responses to “Blue Wave a Comin’”

  1. Judy Hoxworth says:

    I’m speechless! Thanks for expounding on my thoughts! I was kind of afraid to read it…but,glad I made the effort!

  2. Shirley Gillespie says:

    This puts it all in understandable content. I tell people all the time that I didn’t vote for Trump because he was Polly Purebreath. I voted for him because he was our only hope to put the left in their place and not give a darn when he did it. I appreciate him having b***s and not caring what they say. Not only the left but about 70 per cent of the so called right. He is Draining The Swamp and I really, really like him. I pray for him every day.

  3. David Kroon says:

    Bill, I am always amazed by the depth of your thoughts and writings. To think once we were lowly somethings sitting there during draft lottery day, 12/1/1969, wondering if it was our time or not. It was not!!

    David

  4. Chip Burkett says:

    Wonderfully stated, as always. An insightful piece. Thanks!

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