Congress is now open for business the results have been less than encouraging. Many historians of American History will hark back to an earlier time when the time between the Constitutional Convention and the Civil War produced men of great ideas and vision. The Websters, the Clays, the Calhouns, were the great men of the U.S. Senate holding forth in great debate over pressing issues of the day, the central most that of the cohesion of the Union. John Kennedy, himself a popularly elected U.S. Senator, had written a book titled, Profiles In Courage. Kennedy could write well and gave us some insight on a number of former senators who came to their individual tests with courage of conviction and sense of purpose. Seen in a larger scope, though, courage is not a goal or single event, it comes from that constant process of living true, more or less, to form. If one is to believe in the permanence of the union of states, not a union, is of paramount importance, then neither political party nor personal advancement and fortune is of any consequence. One sees the union of these states as a continuing process and not a goal, fait acompli.
For most, political affiliation has become the new religious affiliation. America is no longer that one nation bound under god for liberty and justice for all. America has ceased to remain a country where religious worship means the pursuit of freedom and happiness. We no longer have a shared sense of morality or of god, for that matter. And during that civil strife where each side proclaimed to be on the side of god, perhaps god simply left because he was ashamed at our collective presumptions of moral high ground as we killed, brother against brother, family against family, and neighbor against neighbor. The North came to free the slaves, not to integrate them into their daily lives, better send them back to Africa. Even Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, was only against slavery because it represented a threat the the livelihood of all working white men who could be replaced with slaves if slavery spread. He too, wished them removed to Africa. As for the South, it was an economic question. Without a slave population who was left to plant the cotton, the tobacco, and the other crops the citizenry depended upon for their livelihood? Most slave owners were small time farmers, having one, maybe two slaves to help on the small farm. True, the slave may have been treated like family by these owners but they were still slaves. But the small farmer was just as much at the mercy of the Northern textile mills and the Northern bankers as the large land owners. The south was still very much an agricultural society and economy. It had not the textile mills that employed thousands of women and children and treated them like slaves.
History shows us the issues and the attempts at leadership these issues, some of which end in failure and some in success, the most seeming to die of neglect. One’s goal as a leader may be to conquer the world, but after that, what to do. We love to look at the great leaders such as Alexander the Great. He conquered the world, so to speak, and died in Afghanistan from poison arrows, so it is claimed. His leadership led to his death and gave him a certain amount of immortality, although he appears to be losing some of his luster. On the other hand that process known as civilizing the natives was carried out by his administrators. There were specific goals such as building temples and palaces and all manner of construction, but there was also that process called governing. The institution of laws codified in the local language, the appointment of judges and administrators for governing, and the direction of economic activity in terms of farming and trade. Obviously when one sets out to rule the world, it is not one’s goals that matters in the long view of history but the processes of one’s administrators that matter. Eisenhower and Montgomery and Patton of the last great war obviously won the battles and the war itself, but after they left it was the administrators who rebuilt the defeated countries and brought them back into the fold of productive nations. Their goals were to get the civilian populace working again, renew those public functions of government but without the influence of Social Nationalism. People needed to be feed on a continuous basis until self sufficiency could be made. Electric power and clear water needed to flow again in new lines. Buildings needed to be built to house the homeless, the displaced persons. All those processes we take for granted had to be restarted or replaced or repaired. The goal may have been to clean up the mess but it is the multiple processes that do the work, that govern the country, that give purpose to living.
Any one can have a goal. My immediate goal may be to cross a very busy street. A future goal may be to live to the age of eighty. A goal tends to be a single event. We often speak of intermediate goals such as the next step to the end goal. But a journey is a process, we move along, true enough, one step at a time, but we move, we continue. Many people have written about the Alpha or Type A personalities. We often parody them is comical skits. These are the goal driven individuals, their lives seem to be one accomplished goal after another, like a general who wins battle after battle. And that same general tends to find peace a difficult state in which to live for his goals are based on war. And without war he cannot exist. Our service academies turn out far more administrative individuals that war heroes. One might ask why. Because to govern an army one must administrate. Reports must be made each day. The number of men ready for duty and those in sick bay or training or leave or punishment. All must be accounted for every day. The daily ration expenses, the stores of ammunition available, the pool of vehicles, all these things must be managed. Every NCO and lowly officer has reports to fill out and send to the next level. Then that information must be summed up and reported to higher commands until it all flows to the top general. By that time the information is extracted, refined, and concentrated so that the top general can read the document and sign it. If battle readiness is a goal, how one gets to that point and maintains it is through a great number of processes that start at the lowest levels such as the physical conditioning of individual squad members to the ability to coordinate the large mass of troop movements.
Often we look for leadership from politicians, clergy, business leaders in terms of their visions and specific general goals (now there’s an oxymoron for you). It is not about having the right vision as it is about managing it. A few presidents of this country had such visions, many did not. Some had very fuzzy visions, those more of the Big Rock Candy Mountain type, some were more specific. Some like Arthur have very specif goals and they come into office, get them done, and then retire to private life. Others like Johnson have grandiose visions, spread themselves and the country far too thin, and then fail, leaving a legacy of half finished muck that never seems to get cleaned up. His Great Society has left a welfare mess that has yet to find any solutions to poverty and has increased poverty to new levels leaving generations in its legacy. We remain a country torn and divided by political affiliations that we hold as fervently as one holds a radical religious belief. Death to the infidel is the message our heads of political parties preach. W cannot tolerate those disbelievers. And from this you expect leadership?