Updated: Dec 14, 2020
The guy I sleep with every night was a former airborne ranger who went through some pretty hairy stuff back in the day. Oh yeah, a possum runs through the leaves in the back yard in the middle of the night, and he still pops up to do a 360 of the perimeter. Old habits like that never go away, he tells me. He also tells me a lot about the basics of leadership. The troops eat first. The troops sleep first. His favorite is the Infantry officer’s motto. Every time we watch a war movie and the officer leads his men into a harrowing situation, I still see him over there with a tear in his eye whispering the words, “Follow me.”
Of course, leading men in combat is the pinnacle of leadership. You have to do it right or people die. And it’s probably unfair to expect our political leaders to operate at the same level our military leaders do, but even in these shabby days of politics first, our leaders should walk the walk, not just talk the talk. There is nothing new about hypocrisy, especially political hypocrisy. It was seventeenth century, English philosopher, John Selden, who famously remarked, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Unfortunately, in the political world we now find ourselves, we’re so focused on winning and defending our side, we often neglect to hold our leaders responsible for their mistakes. It is wrong and should never happen, but it does and seemingly with greater and greater frequency. It is the essence of our hypocrisy today.
In the midst of this pandemic, many of our leaders feel compelled to enact draconian restrictions to appear proactive. But too many of them have been caught in the contradiction of not following their own edicts. Governors, mayors, county officials and others are making the nightly news with great regularity, caught in compromising situations without a mask in sight. Hypocrisy always makes for such great headlines, but it used to be a lot more fun when our leaders were caught in a compromising situation with a woman, not his wife. Now, it’s all one big charade that is fooling no one.
Here’s a news flash. A majority of Americans, including many of our political leaders, have made the calculation that Corona is not that big of a deal at this point. They all know people who have had it, and they all know that the likelihood of getting a fatal case is very small. In March, when numbers were low in Nebraska, Omaha was a ghost town. Today, when numbers are high, it’s almost business as usual. We’ve all been sacrificing our freedom and our livelihoods for a long time, and most people are just not that worried about it anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating we drop our guard or efforts to be proactive. In fact, I support our mask mandates. Government should do everything it can to protect its citizens, but at the end of the day, you can only do so much to protect people who don’t really want to be protected. Many of our political leaders from coast-to-coast are just going through the motions for the sake of politics, and the people know it. They make public pronouncements and sound the alarms with great diligence, but the obvious truth is, they are not worried about it enough to follow their own guidelines.
In a perfect world, our leaders would lead from the front and truly believe what they say. They would demonstrate character and resolve by boldly following through on their own orders, and most importantly sacrifice first when there are sacrifices to be made. Unfortunately, it is more common for our leaders today to be first in line to receive the benefits and nowhere to be seen when it comes to making a sacrifice for the common good.