For the good of us all, our leaders need to act like adults

For the good of us all, our leaders need to act like adults

“Only by pride comes contention”(Proverbs 13:10).

Been reading the media/watching the news recently? I have. From the federal government shutdown standoff to the clashes of demonstrators at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., it all comes down to human pride demanding its own way. No one listens to anyone else.

Welcome to America in 2019. All of these conflicts have their roots in pride.

Last week, demonstrators of multiple colors, religions and political views met by happenstance near the Lincoln Memorial to protest injustice and found themselves actors for a few minutes in a series of viral videos. Five Black Hebrew Israelite men hurled vulgar racial insults at white Catholic parochial students from Kentucky, some wearing MAGA hats. The students had come to attend a pro-life rally. Both groups either yelled at each other or threw racial slurs and mocked the Native Americans gathered to protest the injustice done to them and their ancestors. These actions came as a result of human pride in one form or another.

Since the beginning of human history, you can see example after example of the powerful oppressing the poor and weak. The powerful thought only about what was good for themselves.

In the medieval age of feudalism, those who ruled called themselves aristocrats. Aristo in Greek means the “best.” Crat or cracy means “rule by.” Aristocracy therefore means “rulership by the best.” Who decided they were the best? The aristocracy, of course. What was their criteria for this judgment? The fact that they had the power and the rest didn’t.

If someone questioned the monarch’s right to rule, the king would usually quash the protesters, citing the divine right of kings to rule. Any arguments to the contrary would mean not only ending the protesters lives but also damning them to Hell for challenging the authority of the king. This was all arrogance.

In our time we see President Donald Trump, hemmed in by his promise to his base to build a wall, rational or not. He shut down the government and thus came into conflict with the newly-elected Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. The speaker disinvited the president from giving the State of the Union address at the House of Representatives. The president retaliated by telling Pelosi and her team that they couldn’t use a military jet to go on a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan. He outed the trip, which would have put Pelosi and her colleagues and aides at risk of being attacked. Time will tell how Pelosi and the Democrats will respond in the game of high stakes tit-for-tat.

Meanwhile, 800,000 federal employees are required to work for no pay as bills pile up and desperation spreads.

Pride makes all of us victims of our own fears and lusts. Rather than admit we are all human and prone to error, we double down and find others to blame for our problems. We are all guilty of the inability to see our own faults but keenly aware of the failings of others. Rather than treating others as we would like to be treated, we turn others into objects, casting insults and scorn on them. Ironically, while we are quick to criticize, we are slow to realize that what we give to others usually comes back to us. The most critical are also too thin-skinned to cope well with what they have given others coming back in kind. The cycle continues and intensifies.

This is America in 2019. Reason has been replaced by fear. We need leaders who can step up and act like adults. We need positive role models to the rest of the nation, who will not return evil for evil but act with patience and restraint in dealing with those who have been caught by their own pride. The only antidote to pride is humility and the realization that we are really more alike than we realize. We all are related to each other in the end.

“Only by pride comes contention.”


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Jayendrina Singha Ray is a PhD (ABD) in English, with a research focus on the works of the South African Nobel Laureate John Maxwell Coetzee. She teaches English Composition and Research Writing at Highline College, WA, and has previously taught English at colleges in India.
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