The Missals of October

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I recognize all too well how the country has been completely obsessed with the (surprising) results of the presidential election. I frankly find the government – in all its flavors (federal, state, city) to be a nuisance with which I’d like as little to do with as possible, so I don’t get real worked up about who the temporary occupant of the White House is. As for the recent election, I wanted both of them to lose, so I got half my wish.

All the same, I do think the POTUS has two important roles in our country: (a) moral leadership (b) security through temperament.

By moral leadership, I am not suggesting the US is anything close to a theocracy (which, let’s face it, are typically the most immoral governments of all). The nature of the person in the office, though, does tend to set the tone for a country. If a country’s leader (and those that surround him or her) tend to be forthright, honest, humble, and ethical, those values tend to propagate throughout the citizenry, particularly if a succession of leaders tends to hold those traits.

On the other hand, if a nation’s leadership is slippery – – – perhaps in the form of bribery, or dodging taxes, or doling out senior posts to friends and family – – – that, too, corrupts the morality of a nation. After all, thinks the citizen, why should I make an effort to be upright and moral if the guy (or gal) at the top is a sleaze?

Jimmy Carter haD the misfortune of being POTUS at a really lame-o time in our country’s history. Japan was just starting to eat our lunch in manufacturing, and there was, as Carter himself put it, a malaise over the land.

Most everything about 1976-1980 sucked, from disco to unemployment to gas shortages to millions of crappy American cars being recalled. Carter was stained with the awfulness of the late 1970s, but I think most of us would agree he was (and continues to be) a moral leader, and I believe his goodness did assist in the healing of a country badly scarred by Vietnam and Watergate.

The second aspect, security, is on my mind since I got word last night that Castro had died. Our President-elect has already castigated the man’s legacy, even as other world leaders are trying to not speak ill of the dead.

Consider, this, however. What is Trump were President from 1961-1964 instead of 2017-2020? I assume most of you have a passing knowledge of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as it was the closest humanity has come to nuclear war (and, God willing, we will never get that close again). JFK was only 45 years old – Forty-five!! – – when the weight of the world was placed directly on his shoulders. Can you imagine the terror that was deep within him as he navigated those few days of October 1962?

Trump wears his emotions on his sleeves, which helped get him elected. People like his straight-talking manner. Yeah, well, what about in an international crisis? Being a thin-skinned megalomaniac doesn’t play well in a chess game where world security is at stake.

I truly shudder to think what The Big Event is going to be in the next four years. Nothing really horrible has happened in this country since 9/11. Perhaps that’s a credit to our national intelligence (or maybe just dumb luck). But it seems to me altogether plausible that a substantial threat will be rolled out onto the world stage in the next four years (because four years is a long, long time) and Trump will, being the man he is, go ape-shit.

Kennedy was firm publicly with Khrushchev, but behind the scenes, both men worked to find a middle ground in order to save face. It worked. Tragedy was averted.

What would happen if, say, a dirty bomb was deployed in a U.S. city, and the perpetrators were found to come from, let’s say, Afghanistan. How long do you think it would be before Trump ordered a catastrophic nuclear attack on the country, just to avenge American deaths? Two minutes? Three?

There’s nothing any of us can do about the situation, but I at least wanted to think out loud about what I’ve been pondering since the chap down in Cuba finally croaked. God help us.

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