I recently took a break from politics in order to complete my book, “Holocaust of the Childlike.” With that project finished, and having returned from my journalistic sabbatical, I see that things in the political world are just as I left them: spiraling ever deeper into chaos. (It may surprise the reader to find that deadlock and immobility are evidences of social chaos, but it is true nonetheless.)
Because of this sort of environment, commenting on any particular “talking point” is sure to instantly thrust each reader into his respective party echo-chamber, achieving absolutely nothing in regard to real communication. Therefore, I would instead like to point out a timeless political principle which, because it is valid for any society at any period, will hopefully be able to penetrate the party noise long enough to speak to all readers indiscriminately.
The principle I refer to is that of authentic “leadership.” One of the pitfalls of democracy is that, if we are not extremely careful, we will drive all leaders from our presence.
Consider the fact we rarely vote for men because we believe them to be wiser, stronger and generally more virtuous than ourselves; instead, we vote for men because we believe they are exactly like ourselves. Although we may not state this explicitly, the truth of the claim is proven the first time our politician does something we disagree with. When this happens, he is met with a resounding “How dare you!”
Therefore, it is evident when we select a President, we are not selecting a leader — in fact, we are not looking at character traits at all — we are merely selecting a mirror, and the man who can best function in that reflective capacity is the victor. Unfortunately, since this requires the politician not only to try to “mirror” my desires, but also a thousand others, the one who wins is not simply a mirror, but a complex “prism” of sorts, attempting to “represent” a thousand wills at once. The last person he is actually allowed to be is himself.
Needless to say, no authentic man — much less a great leader — would subject himself to such degradation. And yet we demand it of all politicians.
For those who still cannot see the problem, or who still believe we do in fact vote authentic men into office, perhaps a comparison between two men of different nations and different times will suffice. I choose them not for their faith, but for the types of character they illustrate:
Take first the famous historian, Hilaire Belloc. In 1906 he ran for a seat in the English parliament. His opponent, knowing Belloc was a devout Catholic and of French blood, made his slogan “Don’t vote for a Frenchman and a Catholic.”
Page 2 of 2 - Belloc responded by standing up amidst his Protestant audience and saying:
“Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This [taking a rosary out of his pocket] is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God He has spared me the indignity of being your representative.”
The audience erupted in applause, and Belloc won the seat. He overwhelmed the prejudices of his audience with his manly authenticity, and the people decided they would rather have a leader in office than a mirror.
Turn now to John F. Kennedy, also a Catholic, who found himself in an identical situation, speaking before a Protestant audience amidst a presidential campaign. His words, however, are somewhat different:
“I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me ... Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision … in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”
Between these two men we see a profound difference of attitudes in regard to both the candidate and within the voters themselves. Belloc would not compromise his honor to win a vote, and his voters loved him for it. Kennedy, on the other hand, apparently felt he could not enter office at all without first swearing an “oath of inauthenticity,” pretending to leave his faith on the White House lawn.
This should tell us something about our politicians, but it should also tell us about ourselves and what we have to come to demand of our so-called leaders. We have, in a very real sense, created a special breed of hypocrite. We have systemically excluded the possibility of any real leader winning the presidency, because a real leader could never transform himself into the representative “prism” of pretense and hypocrisy which the office now requires.
The result? In the words of C.S. Lewis: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
The opinions in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the The McPherson Sentinel or GateHouse Media. If you have any related questions or suggestions you would like to see explored here, simply email me at daniel.schwindt@ gmail.com.