The Failure of Leadership
The stalemate over another stimulus package which would impact millions of Americans for good shows me some profound losses in our life together as a nation.
The first thing it highlights for me is the loss of compassion for a significant part of our American family and work force. We are unable or unwilling to attempt to understand what it is like to have lost a job or business to COVID, and languished without work for several months. For families living modestly there is little savings, little financial cushion, and growing anxiety over house payments in arrears, rent overdue, utilities left unpaid, and an economy that is struggling to regain the pre-virus momentum.
Add to that the stress of single parent families who struggled before the pandemic and children with food insufficiency and no regular access to nutritious food. Slowly over time, public school leaderships have accepted a sad reality: many children depend on school to provide breakfast and lunch. Absent those resources, children are vulnerable and go to bed with empty stomachs. It is also a feature of our culture that schools provide not only a safety net for children who are not being fed, but children who are not safe. Public schools are often the source of child abuse reports because alert teachers, counselors, nurses see the signs, the symptoms, and as a result take the necessary steps to protect the children.
Additionally, our lack of compassion is demonstrated from the top down in leadership at every level who justify legislative gridlock, and politicize a virus which early on could have been contained were it not for making everything about COVID a political issue. So, here we are 6 months into this pandemic, and adequately paid leadership constantly try to do as little as possible to lead this nation to get on the same page, understand the truth about this pernicious disease, take the challenging steps to stop the spread, treat those infected and rebuild our economy. What do they hope to secure with their gutless leadership and spineless lack of progress? Re-election!
All of these failures begin with a lack of compassion. The unhealthy give and take about reopening our schools is another indication of our cold blatant lack of compassion. I hear a lot of posturing but not much shared concern about the safety of children, teachers, and school employees which are necessary to make a school function as an adequate learning environment. Having grown up in public schools, used public schools to raise our children, and having teachers in our family, I am deeply concerned what is driving the effort to reopen schools has more to do with politics and the upcoming election that what is safest for all. Truthfully, I don’t think what is best for the child or the adults in the school is driving the move to reopen education.
The lack of compassion, in my mind, is coupled with the loss of the dignity afforded the world of compromise. That is to say we have drifted to a place, a very dangerous place, where leadership refuses to negotiate or compromise. So, with a diverse population of over 328M gathered from all point of the world, speaking over 350 languages, from different cultures, religions, economic and social statuses, different educations and professions, living in 50 different states and five territories scattered around the world it is foolish to believe one point of view, one philosophy, one economic theory, one political theory can fit everyone who is a part of this nation. That is why compromise must be at the heart of our governing bodies do their work. Gone are the days (apparently) when working together to get a “win-win” situation is possible. So, we are continually hitting unyielding brick walls when budgets, policies, laws must be “our way” or no way. It has become a “we win,” “you lose” script. But the glaring truth is we are all losing.
Finally, we have lost the real meaning of representative government. The House of Representatives is comprised of 435 members drawn(supposedly) from regional districts to represent the constituents in Washington. The Senate has 100 senators (two from each state) representing the states in the union. That is not what is happening and has not happened in some time. At the close of an election, the person elected becomes the person who “represents” everyone in the district. However, somewhere in the last few years, there has emerged a “base” which must be catered to, donors who must be catered to, rigid party lines which cannot be negotiated or varied from. What has been lost is the sense that “my representative” really cares about me if I am not of his/her party or his/her base. Rigid, doctrinaire “take no prisoners” governance does not need many more steps to be autocratic and from there to tyranny.
Simply, “the people’s business/interests” have been lost in the swamps of power. What we are lacking is real leadership at every level who is willing with great courage to say, “Let’s move together and toward the higher ground where compassion, compromise, and inclusion work for all.
Wash your hands, wear your mask for others, mind the gap, and be kind.