I am a political junkie but, unlike my kids, I am still hooked on old-fangled newspapers. I need to hold newsprint in my own two little hands every morning as I wander my way through the Boston Globe. I start with the sports section, before bracing myself to withstand the latest stench emanating from the sorry state of our nation’s leadership. On the face of it, it appears as if there is little honor left amongst the leaders of our nation. Even though I know that there are some leaders who are honorable and seek to serve their country with integrity, I am distracted by those who are corrupt, power hungry, have sold out to special interests or could generally care less about their constituents or our nation as a whole. They make me quite cranky, to the point that I once announced that I was forming a new political party called the “Disgusted Party.” I was only kidding, but I was amazed at how many took me seriously and wanted to jump on my bandwagon!
This leads me to spin a fairy tale for you. This story, which reeks of impossibility, is completely a figment of my ever-hopeful imagination. After all, it is a mortal sin to live without hope.
Once upon a time to come, the good old “US of A” embarked upon yet another presidential campaign. At first, it was the “same old same old.” The candidates were seasoned politicians, most of whom were TV “charismaniacs,” who promised that, if elected, they would instantly end the gridlock in our nation’s capitol and lead our nation to new heights of power, prosperity and glory: “Just vote for me and I’ll save the world!” Of course, these old pros, most of who had been sipping the Kool-Aid of arrogance, had lined up massive financial resources long before the primaries began. Millions of dollars were spent to inform the people as to why, if they voted for one of them, heaven was near, but if they voted for an opponent, they should prepare to plumb the depths of hell. This, of course, was nothing new. Everybody knew that all the candidates were really one and the same. The cynical citizenry knew that, no matter which candidate they voted for, not a thing would really change. So they collectively yawned and tuned out the media noise. They felt discouraged and disillusioned. They longed for something new.
Then a strange thing happened. Actually, a strange woman happened. From the tiny village of Cotuit, Massachusetts, a different voice was heard. At first, she did not attract the attention of the nation’s big-time media, but rather her voice and message went viral on the Internet. Her message swept across the land via Facebook and Twitter and her presence became familiar on Instagram and YouTube.
She was a simple woman. She worked most of her life in retail. She had virtually no charisma, but her honesty was undeniable and her vision of a compassionate country and a government that existed for the people, rather than above the people, echoed the founders’ dreams. She became too big to ignore. The mainstream media picked up the story. The woman declared that she was running for President, but that she would not raise any money or buy TV ads. What she would do, however, was cast a new vision for the nation, without making undeliverable promises. She said that she would represent store clerks and bankers, the upwardly mobile and the down-and-outers. She would do her best to work with everybody to make real the vision expressed in our nation’s creeds: the vision of a nation in which the unalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were a tangible reality, not a shattered dream. She also promised she would not run for a second term. One and done. “After all,” she said, “if I can’t do what needs to be done in four years, I don’t think four more years will be any different.”
To make this fairy tale short and sweet, the strange woman from Cotuit won! Through the electrifying stimulus created by social media, millions of people turned out to vote, many of whom had never voted before! Running as an independent, and often a write-in candidate, she clobbered both the “old guard” candidates. A tweet announced the stunning news: “A woman rules!”
Inauguration day dawned bright and sunny. It truly reflected the rejuvenated mood of the country. Madame President was sworn in by the Chief Justice and then moved to the microphones to speak. This is what she said:
“My fellow Americans: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Then she paused for a moment. One could sense that the crowd was wondering, “Where is she going with this? Really??? The 23rd Psalm??? Is that all she’s got?” Then, however, she struck a new chord. She created a new harmony.
“As your President, our Creator has called me to be your shepherd, a shepherd to every man, woman and child who lives in our cherished land. I will do my very best to care for your needs and your wants. I will work to create a sense of peace in our country and in our world. I want to do nothing less than to lift our nation’s spirit, to heal its tattered soul. I promise I will always try to do what’s right so that my actions reflect the eternal values bequeathed to us by our Highest Divine Power. No matter what happens, even when fear and death confront us, I will strive to comfort you and walk with you in our shared journey. Our enemies will have no sway over us. They will only be able to marvel as our joy overflows like a cascading waterfall. I firmly believe that goodness and grace will always tag along behind us, because this is not only your land or my land. This is God’s land. And in God we trust!”
Then, she sat down as the deeply moved crowd stood on the mall and chanted: “In God we trust! In God we trust!”
Drats! Too bad this is only a fairy tale, but it is a fairy tale with a point. It is to remind us that our ancient, psalm-singing ancestors had an incredible vision of leadership. A true leader is charged to be shepherd-like: to govern, not with coercive power, but with a persuasive power motivated by goodness and mercy. Every member of a leader’s flock is important; every sheep and lamb is to be cared for and kept safely in the fold. And a true leader is always on the lookout for strays!
What a leadership concept! Imagine if the kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, popes and pastors of our age and the ages to come embraced a shepherd-like leadership. Perhaps this ancient vision of shepherd leadership has the potential to be a refreshing wind that blows away the stagnant smog of a political leadership that, too often, believes itself to be above and beyond the people. If only our leaders would assume such leadership. Then, with perhaps a Divine nudge, my over-the-top fairy tale might be converted into a new narrative for our nation; a narrative that reeks, not of impossibility, but of the possibility for a restoration of our nation’s spirit and the healing of our tattered soul.
John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts